No Budget Consensus as F.C. Council Hosts Final Town Hall Tomorrow

With last night’s Falls Church City Council work session running past 11:15 p.m. and no consensus reached on the parameters of the coming fiscal year budget, tomorrow’s Town Hall meeting at the F.C. Community Center at 10 a.m. looms more important than previously expected. Citizens will be presented a summary of the alternative positions held by different Council members and invited to provide their input. The issues at dispute now concern the real estate tax rate number and the size of the City transfer to the schools.

With six of the seven Council members present last night, three (David Snyder, Robin Gardner and Lawrence Webb) came out in support of a real estate tax rate of $1.26 per $100 valuation, two (Johannah Barry and Ira Kaylin) supported $1.28 and the sixth, Mayor Nader Baroukh, said he’d be willing to go as high as $1.28 if necessary. Ron Peppe was not present. The Kaylin/Barry argument for the higher tax rate was premised on the need to fully restore the City’s fund balance as a hedge against expected rough budget expectations ahead. The Snyder/Gardner/Webb argument favored holding the line on the rate increase this year, while waiting to see if effects of an economic recovery don’t make things look brighter for the coming years. It was noted that the Council’s current projection numbers show no new economic development in the coming period.

The $1.26 rate would include an $1,800 one-time bonus for all City employees, which for those earning $50,000 or less would amount to equalizing their take-home pay for the coming year with that they’re making in the current fiscal year, even as their contributions to the City’s pension and retirement funds will rise to either five or seven percent. But another dispute on the Council centered on whether the one-time bonus would be rolled into salary increases for the following year. Kaylin and Barry were adamant in their opposition to that scenario, concerned for its impact on the health of the pension plan overall.

Kaylin and Barry also spoke out against granting the School Board the full transfer it has requested, citing inequities between the School Board’s plan to provide one full “step” pay increase to all its employees after six months into the fiscal year, and the Cityside plan for a one-time bonus for its employees.