City Council Adopts Laundry List Of Ways to Spend Budget Surplus

The Falls Church City Council gave a preliminary approval Monday to a robust $1,773,029 increase in expenditures in the current fiscal year budget, based on a $1,634,029 surplus from the last fiscal year that became evident with the wrap up of this fiscal year’s first quarter on Oct. 1. The Council vote was six “yes” and one “no,” by Mayor David Tarter.

A veritable laundry list of items big and small made up the expenditures, filling gaps left by unmet priority needs in the budget that was approved by the Council last April. The only substantive need that was not addressed was the request by the City’s Commissioner of the Revenue for more manpower and space in order to keep its branch office function for the Department of Motor Vehicles. Also, there was no provision for adding back the $231,000 in cuts the School Board was made to absorb in the April vote.

The surplus was based on a combination of factors, City Manager Wyatt Shields told the City Council Tuesday, including underspending in Fiscal Year 2014, the result of a variety of reasons.

Carry forward expenditures funded with the surplus include $117,000 for Information Technology needs and $125,000 for West End Park construction.

Funded “unmet needs” from the last budget include $150,000 for the replacement of three Sheriff’s department vehicles, $150,000 for the replacement of two dump trucks which play a big role during the snow season, and $80,000 for a future transportation planner.

“Situational change priorities” funded include $130,000 for the re-wiring of the traffic signal at Broad and Washington, $45,000 for additional Mary Riley Styles Library space needs and architectural study, $20,000 for a structural rehabilitation of the City-owned Gage House, $15,000 for office renovations to accommodate additional capital project management resources at City Hall, and $25,000 for the City’s cultural arts program known as CATCH (“City Arts, Theater, Culture and History”).

A big chunk, $597,000, equaling the surplus in revenues derived from building permits collected by the City, will be committed to future year costs related to inspection and reviews of new developments.

There is $159,000 to cash-fund three replacement police vehicles, rather than financing them with debt as originally contemplated, and $152,000 to repair and remove asbestos from the Community Center roof, which is the original roof built in 1968, and $25,000 to rebuild the Community Center HVAC.

The plan calls for the creation of a special transportation fund to cover the City’s annual commitment of $200,000 to WMATA, $289,804 of a federal grant for a Roosevelt Street sidewalk improvement project, $132,660 of federal money to the same program from the bus stop improvement project, and $118,995 redeployed from the Broad St. Streetscape project to the Bridges program to make needed improvements on two bridges in the City.

Tarter’s “no” vote, he said came from his belief these projects were being approved too quickly, without necessary vetting. “This is a hasty action,” he said.

The second and final vote on the deployment of these funds will be at the Council’s next regular meeting on Oct. 27.