News

F.C. City Manager Recommends Boosting Tax Rate to $1.27

shieldsmugshotFalls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields unveiled his proposed $64.2 million budget to the Falls Church City Council tonight, urging at jump of 20 cents in the real estate tax rate from $1.07 to $1.27 on top of deep cuts in City services. Steep declines in real estate tax assessments and other impacts of the wider recession were pinpointed as the need for the recommendation.

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Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields.

Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields unveiled his proposed $64.2 million budget to the Falls Church City Council tonight, urging at jump of 20 cents in the real estate tax rate from $1.07 to $1.27 on top of deep cuts in City services. Steep declines in real estate tax assessments and other impacts of the wider recession were pinpointed as the need for the recommendation.

Shields’ proposed budget involves reducing the City’s workforce by 16 positions to its lowest level since the mid-1990s and a combination of pay freeze and health and pension offsets that will reduce the take home pay of the City’s 184 employees by 1.6 to 5 percent. It also includes the outsourcing of the City’s trash pickup service and no use of the general fund for capital improvements. The size of the general fund will be down 7.12 percent, and the school budget, in the budget approved by the F.C. School Board last week by 4.5 percent.

A 13.4 percent decline in the assessed value of commercial real estate in the City, a 12 percent decline in the assessment of apartment buildings and an 18.41 percent decline in sales tax revenues were matched by a reduction in new commercial property values from $128 million in 2007 to $8 million in the current year to create the deep hole between projected revenues and expenditures that led to Shields’ recommendations of a balance between a tax rate hike and program and personnel cuts. In addition, the value of the median single family home in the City fell from $651,000 in 2007 to $587,300 in 2010.

Some of Shields’ proposed service cuts include closing the public library on Sundays and reducing hours on other days by one hour per week. He also calls for the defunding of the City’s annual July 4 fireworks beginning in 2011 (as it is already paid for this year) and its contribution to the New Year’s Eve Watch Night celebration. Cuts will also be made in street sweeping and IT services, and the GEORGE bus service will be further scaled back.

Among the key programs Shields recommends will remain funded at current levels are police uniformed patrols and storm water maintenance.

Shields indicated that maintaining services at their current level would require increasing the tax rate to $1.37. While he recommended $1.27, however, he said the Council should “advertise” a rate of $1.30 in order to leave it with some “wiggle room” before finally setting on the next fiscal year budget the end of April.

Council reactions to the presentation ranged from Councilman Dan Sze’s declaration that “it leaves us gasping for breath, even as much as we knew this was coming,” and Councilman Dan Maller’s urging that the Council be “more proactive than just reactive” in its budget approach to help spur an economic recovery, and he added that there is “a consensus in this community about things like education.”

“I will be looking for lower levels of a tax rate increase,” Councilman David Snyder said. Vice Mayor Hal Lippman added, “I don’t mean to minimize the financial pain inflicted on us, but I think we will get through this fine,” a comment seconded by Councilman Maller.

Mayor Robin Gardner urged citizens to participate in the many public hearings, work sessions and business meetings that will be held between tonight and the final adoption of the new budget on April 26.

News

F.C. City Manager Recommends Boosting Tax Rate to $1.27

shieldsmugshotFalls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields unveiled his proposed $64.2 million budget to the Falls Church City Council tonight, urging at jump of 20 cents in the real estate tax rate from $1.07 to $1.27 on top of deep cuts in City services. Steep declines in real estate tax assessments and other impacts of the wider recession were pinpointed as the need for the recommendation.

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