At its budget work session in City Hall tonight, the six members of the Falls Church City Council present (Lawrence Webb absent) came to a firm consensus that a 5.5 percent salary increase would be included in the FY 2013 budget that they are slated to adopt on April 23. This would be a meaningful hike over the 3 percent proposed in the City Manager’s recommended budget last month, and key City employees present at the meeting told the News-Press in the parking lot following the meeting that they were “very pleased” with the news.
The Council found the needed money in less than projected requirements for the City’s contribution to WMATA and a cut into contingency funds. It also tentatively cut a new part time position in the Fire Marshall’s office, but was able to keep two new Planning Department positions in the budget, a matter that was up for considerable debate. The apparent resolution of core budget issues came with no increase in the real estate tax rate, and Vice Mayor David Snyder’s call for a one cent decrease in the tax rate gained no traction with any other Council member present.
During a joint work session with the F.C. School Board, it was pointed out by School Board member Greg Rasnake that while School employees will get a 3 percent raise in their budget, an increase in those employees’ responsibilities for the Virginia Retirement Fund will mean in all practicality only a 2 percent net increase.
On the City side, the 5.5 percent increase, following the expiration of a one-time bonus to City employees last year, will result in a net 2.5 percent increase in take home pay.
The City’s 4 percent increase in projected revenues for the coming year is what has allowed for the first real salary hike for City employees in four years.
The issue of economic development as a key city priority underscored the discussion of the two Planning Department positions that City Manager Wyatt Shields proposed adding. Snyder called for eliminating them to help permit a lowering of the tax rate, but Council member Ira Kaylin led the charge of those on the Council who argued that the two positions will be key for setting up the City’s ability to attract new economic development, a position shared by Shields. With the changes a wide majority on the Council appeared to support tonight, the Council will have about an $80,000 surplus to figure out how to add into the budget in the next 11 days.
The Council will hold a second Town Hall meeting on the budget this Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Community Center and its final public hearing on the budget is slated for Monday, April 23, just prior to its final vote on the package.