F.C. Mustn’t Become Like ‘On-Campus Housing’
Last week’s News-Press contained a lead article filled with local relief regarding preservation of our bond rating. But, with further declining commercial assessments expected, the city faces not only additional tax rate increases, but further net increases in residential tax payments.
Falls Church moved into brave new tax territory last year. Our current tax rate is now $1.24 per $100 of assessed value. It appears that due to further shortfalls and contingencies, next year we are considering a greater than four cent increase in the tax rate, to over $1.28, on top of last year’s record setting 17 cent increase.
Home buyers have options and Falls Church no longer offers a real estate tax rate that is even close to our adjacent jurisdictions: Arlington’s tax rate is currently $.95 (up 8.3 cents from 2009) and Fairfax County’s tax rate is $1.09 (up 5 cents from 2009).
For years we have justified the higher taxes here based on the incremental value of our unique community and its good school system, but often patterns of behavior change when real money is involved. We will lose some of the most important aspects of this community if with time we lose our older neighbors on fixed incomes, our economic diversity and our families with graduates. Falls Church should not (and probably can’t) become the equivalent of expensive on-campus housing. Our local leaders face some tough decisions.
Don’t Appease Wall Street’s Bond Agencies
Kudos to the editor for reminding readers of the City’s fiscal conservationism in a recent interview of City Manager Shields. The City Council needs to abandon past principles and parameters before heading into intense budget discussions.
Last year, the City Council decided to impose a debt limit on itself of less than 5% of the net assessed valuation of taxable property even though the Commonwealth Constitution allows for a 10% debt limit. It also committed itself to repay 25% of total debt within five years and at least 50% of total debt within ten years. After raising property tax rates and cutting services, it is unconscionable to continue to operate under such fiscal parameters in an effort to appease Wall Street credit agencies.
For most City residents that I know, the choice between a stellar bond rating and street lights for my very dark cul-de-sac or extra-curricular activities for school kids is a no-brainer.
Restructure the debt!
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