F.C. Council Poised to OK Budget Hitting All Its Desired Policy Goals

At its final work session last Monday before voting on its Fiscal Year 2013 budget, a majority of the Falls Church City Council reaffirmed its budget objectives of fully funding the School Board request, restoring the fund balance to two-months’ worth of annual revenues, and providing a 5.5 percent salary increase for all City employees and beefing up the City’s economic development capabilities, all with no increase in the real estate tax rate.

The Council will hold a final public hearing this Monday night at 7:30 p.m. prior to voting to adopt the budget. The vote is not expected to be unanimous as at least one member, Vice Mayor David Snyder, has been adamant about lowering the tax rate by a penny.

A larger-than-expected four percent increase in projected revenues for the coming fiscal year (beginning July 1) created the context for achieving the policy goals for the coming period, even though there were calls for caution by some on the Council uncertain that the current positive economic trends will continue.

In particular, the discussion at Monday’s work session began to get dicey as some Council members expressed the view that a less increase, at 4.5 percent, go into effect on July 1, and an additional half or full percent be added on next January 1.

But when Council member Ron Peppe pulled up on his laptop inflation figures over the years there were no salary hikes for City employees, and the cumulative number was significantly higher than the net gains for City employees even with this coming proposed hike, the conversation of delays came to a quick halt.

Still, Mayor Nader Baroukh stressed that City Manager Wyatt Shields should be diligent to monitor revenues in the coming months, and if they don’t wind up covering the 5.5 percent increase (calculated at $267,000 above the 3 percent hike originally proposed) adjustments may be needed.

Snyder sat at the opposite end of the work session table that night from where he usually was, seated next to Councilman Ira Kaylin. Kaylin had launched into what Snyder had called a “personal attack” on him at a recent work session, and it remained evident that there was a lack of cordiality between the two last week.

Snyder stuck to his earlier commitment on behalf of lowering the tax rate by a penny from $1.27 per $100 assessed valuation, a call that drew Kaylin’s angry outburst last week, though no one else on the Council expressed support for Snyder’s view.

By deciding to purchase three, not five, new police cars and not to hire a part-time assistant fire marshal, along with other small changes, the Council found itself with $100,000 left over last week, which it decided would be split between increasing street paving and storm water maintenance this Monday.

The Council adjourned at 9 p.m. having determined that a final work session this Thursday would be unnecessary.

For the second time this budget season, a public Town Hall meeting at the Community Center last Saturday morning proved to be a bust, from an attendance standpoint. Over and above City Council candidates, paid City staff and appointed board and commission members present, there were only four citizens who attended.