Local Commentary

Editorial: School Bond Vote’s Whopping Margin

Congratulations to the voting citizens of the City of Falls Church for providing an overwhelming, landslide majority in the passage of the Mt. Daniel School bond referendum on Tuesday. It was not easy to see that coming given the unsettling state of the economy and loud protests from some in the distinct minority who were against it.

But the two-to-one vote represents a resounding vote of confidence in our City’s leadership, on the City Council, the School Board and the professional staff at City Hall. It reflects the public’s support that that these leaders are advising and preparing the way for significant and important improvements to our City’s infrastructure, especially given the emphasis on world class public education that it has prided itself in providing since the City’s incorporation.

A big boost of assurance in this regard came with the election-eve pronouncement by Council member Phil Duncan that the $15.6 million school bond referendum could be paid for by a combination of some proceeds from the sale of the City’s water system and education-earmarked proffers from three developers who’ve either recently completed or are in the construction process in the City. In other words, no impact on the real estate tax rate would accrue from approving the bond measure.

It makes crystal clear how the City needs to move forward from this point, given the $100 million price tag that may come with the construction of a new high school and the badly-needed major expansion and improvements to City Hall and the City’s public library.

That is, aggressive economic development is the key, the kind that freed up $4.2 million in developer proffers that will help pay for the Mt. Daniel project. It now behooves the City Council to make sure that the developers of the so-called Mason Row project at the corner of N. West St. and W. Broad do not walk away, but are embraced in a way that will help provide a huge economic boost to the City.

Then there is the “back of the envelope” musings of the experts from the Urban Land Institute who came here last month to provide a vision of what could be derived from the development of the 10 acres of new City land by the West Falls Church Metro. It was a conversation starter, not a fixed plan, but showed how the City could move ahead on that land to create a fascinating synergy between the new high school and commercial development there.

The ideal would be to project that new income from that development could effectively pay for the high school. The City, as a general rule, needs to learn from what Arlington County has done in partnering with the private sector to pay for new public buildings, be them schools, government offices or libraries.

We are pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming margin of Tuesday’s vote on the bond referendum. It is a mighty thumbs up to push ahead.