Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: F.C. Budget Issues, Voting & the DMV Select

What were you doing on St. Patrick’s Day? Most people probably weren’t at the Town Hall Budget Meeting held at the Community Center that was the unofficial kickoff for the City’s budget process. I can’t blame you, a lot of activities were happening on that beautiful but busy day.

The City’s budget is the single most important document that reflects our community’s values and our priorities for the future. I urge you to review the document, attend the budget work sessions and the public hearings, if you can, and communicate with the City Council on how you want your tax dollars spent.

The City Manager’s proposed budget includes the approved School Board Budget. The City Council can change the top line funding of the school budget, but they don’t have the power to decide line item spending. The City Council will pass the FY2013 City Budget on Monday, April 23 at 7:30 pm and it will be effective on July 1, 2012.

This budget season you’ll have the additional opportunity to share your opinions and goals for Falls Church City and its award-winning school system with the seven candidates running for City Council and the four candidates running for School Board. The election is on Tuesday, May 1 with the polls open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. (This is the last election for City Council and School Board in May; in last year’s referendum voters decided to move municipal elections to November, starting in 2013).

Another twist in this May’s election is that we’re moving from our traditional five voting wards to three. Those three voting wards will now be: Ward I at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School on S. Oak Street, Ward II at the Oakwood Apartments on N. Roosevelt Boulevard and the new Ward III at the Community Center on Little Falls Street. There will no longer be voting at the Scout House on Spring Street or at the American Legion Building on Oak Street.

The City’s Registrar will be sending out new Voter Registration Cards for all those who will be moving to a new voting location and/or if their ward number will change. Many of us though will continue to vote at our usual poll location. There will be publicity and outreach to make sure the voters are aware of these changes.

The City’s budget is the single most important document that reflects our community’s values and our priorities for the future.

Back to the budget: in my job as the Commissioner of the Revenue and Director of the DMV Select Office, I’ll be looking for the resources to continue provide top-notch services to our City residents and businesses. That job has become more challenging, because of the increased number of cars, businesses and individuals. Also, the DMV Select Office, opened in March of 2006, now handles over 25,000 transactions a year.

This service has been highly praised by City residents, City businesses and City employees alike, and has all been done without adding any additional staff. The DMV Select is also crucial in helping the Commissioner of the Revenue Office operate more efficiently. All this has occurred while salaries have been frozen in the Constitutional Offices for the last four years.

Resources are available to help handle this crunch, if only the City budget was in compliance with state law. The code of Virginia clearly states that 80% of the DMV Select revenue must be returned to the office that performs the work. I have not been receiving this money and I have been patiently requesting that the City budget comply with the state law.

Three out of the five City’s revenue categories showing substantial increases this budget year are entirely assessed and collected in my office. Providing resources to a revenue generating office will only enhance the City’s bottom line. The City Council might like to know your opinion on this topic.

There are many other budget issues worthy of public discussion. I had two feet of water in my basement in September, so I’m very interested in future stormwater management solutions and how we will pay for them. Also the Council’s new policy dramatically increasing the reserve fund should be closely examined, as should the 11-cent commercial tax overlay proposed for 2014, and the small pay increase for City employees just to name a few. What budget issues will you be following?