News

Snyder Returns, Tilts F.C. Council to Use Surplus for School Technology Upgrades

Expected Final 4-3 Vote May Resolve Dispute on Monday

With Vice Mayor David Snyder away on business most of August, three members of the Falls Church City Council seeking to use a portion of the $3.4 million surplus from the last fiscal year budget to fund needed school technology upgrades could not muster a majority.

Expected Final 4-3 Vote May Resolve Dispute on Monday

With Vice Mayor David Snyder away on business most of August, three members of the Falls Church City Council seeking to use a portion of the $3.4 million surplus from the last fiscal year budget to fund needed school technology upgrades could not muster a majority.

But with Snyder weighing in for the first time Tuesday night at a lengthy City Council work session, a majority for funding the school program became evident.

Snyder added his support to Council colleagues Phil Duncan, Ron Peppe and David Tartar against the objections of Mayor Nader Baroukh, Ira Kaylin and Johannah Barry, and the meeting adjourned after 11 p.m. with the resolve of the majority to bring the funding issue to a vote at next Monday’s regular Council business meeting.

The leadership of the Falls Church School System stuck it out to the end of tonight’s meeting, including Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones, School Board chair Susan Kearney and chief financial officer Hunter Kimball. They walked out of City Hall shaking their heads at all the fuss that has obsessed the Council for over a month.

“We made it clear last spring that we needed the money (for the technology upgrades), but we didn’t put them in our budget in deference to your budget guidance,” a frustrated Kearney replied to a direct question from Kaylin last Tuesday night.

It had turned out that the Council budget guidance was way off, leading to a $3.4 million surplus. “Our need came as no surprise to anyone,” Kearney told the Council. “We did what we were asked and it gets thrown back in our faces. It doesn’t make me happy.”

Mayor Baroukh proposed delaying a vote pending another work session on the matter, suggesting that if the Council were to “do nothing, the funds would get distributed next year.”

But the four in the majority for funding the school request began expressing their impatience. “The City Council begins to lose public faith if we can’t resolve this,” Snyder said. “We need to strip away the rhetoric.” Tartar added, “This has been talked to death, we need to take a vote.”

Tartar proposed a three-way use of the surplus – a third to the City, a third to the schools and a third as a rebate to taxpayers. His plan carried the support of the four-member majority, with the exception of the still unresolved rebate portion.

That portion could take the form, instead, of a solid Council promise to use the funds to pre-fund capital projects that will directly benefit the taxpayers, Snyder suggested.

That issue may be discussed at the Council’s annual “big picture” retreat this Saturday, prior to Monday’s business meeting. The retreat is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. To 4 p.m. in the Technology Learning Center at George Mason High School. According to City Manager Wyatt Shields, the surplus issue will be briefly discussed beginning at about 9:15 a.m.