The Falls Church City Council made it official Monday night, unanimously adopting a budget guidance for the City Manager that sets the operating budget at zero-growth for the coming fiscal year, and that theoretically includes for the schools. However, it is hardly expected that the School Board, for its part, will comply with such a demand, and the first step in the realization of that comes Tuesday night when Superintendent Dr. Tony Jones will make her budget recommendations to that board. Tonight, however, the Council which will have the final say on funding the budget in late April, noted that with no change in the real estate tax rate, the City Finance Office projects a Fiscal Year 2016 revenue growth of three percent ($2.3 million). held down due in part to a downward projection in state funding, and that already for the next budget $2.2 million of new money is required just to cover new debt service on the Mt. Daniel Elementary School renovation and expansion, approved by city voter in a referendum last November.
“After the requirements are met, funding levels for the expenditures for schools and the general government in FY16 would need to remain essentially flat relative to FY15, absent any change to the tax rate,” City Manager Wyatt Shields acknowledged.
“This vote tonight marks the beginning of an arduous journey” to shape the coming fiscal year budget, said City Councilman Phil Duncan Monday. “The City itself is lin good shape and doing exciting things,” he said, “But hopes for a brighter picture at the state level” do not seem to be materializing, he said. Thus, while there are bright long-term investments happening with the proceeds from the sale of the City’s water system and in funding improvements to the library and City Hall, “operating spending with be very tight.”
He said that school enrollment numbers will be key to what the Council will have to encounter as budget requests from the School Board which will come next month.