By a narrow 4-3 vote Monday night, the Falls Church City Council gave a preliminary “first reading” OK to City Manager Wyatt Shields’ proposed four-cent tax rate increase — from the current $1.305 to $1.345 — to kick off formal deliberations on the new fiscal year budget that will culminate with the final adoption of the budget to go into effect July 1 coming in late April. Only two of the seven Council members, however, tipped their hands on how they might vote on the final adoption of the budget, with Vice Mayor David Snyder suggesting he will go with the $1.345 rate because he’s been persuaded so far that it’s needed, and Council member Phil Duncan saying that he expects he’d go no further than a two-cent rate hike come late April.
Ironically, the vote to OK the $1.345 rate tonight barely won out over an alternative plan initiated by Council member Nader Baroukh, who said that the Council needed the flexibility to add programs to the current recommended budget, so he proposed a $1.365 maximum rate, and was joined by Council members Dan Sze and Karen Oliver to vote for that option.
Under the rules of a “first reading,” the Council can wind up lowering the rate that will be advertised out of Monday’s meeting, but cannot raise it above the level of Monday’s vote.
In the public hearing portion of Monday’s meeting, three older citizens spoke up against any tax increase, with one stating that all things taken into account — an increase in his property’s assessment on top of a proposed rate hike — his overall taxes will go up by 12.3 percent, to three much younger women, all with children in the school system, Erin Gill, Marykate Hughes and Letty Hardi, who spoke urging the Council to adopt the school budget portion of the budget with its plan to retain high quality teachers by making them more competitive with neighboring jurisdictions such as Arlington. A fourth pro-school budget advocate spoke up, being developer Bob Young, who said that while his properties in the City pay very high taxes, being as his late wife, son, daughter and daughter in law have all been teachers and he therefore appreciates the value of quality teachers.