There was no doubt that the financial picture presented by the City of Falls Church’s Chief Financial Officer Richard A. LaCondre to the F.C. City Council on Monday and the F.C. School Board on Tuesday was rosy and upbeat.
A diligent fiscal conservative, LaCondre would be reluctant to confirm either descriptive term, always mindful of potential land mines in the future, but everyone seemed pretty encouraged by his numbers, the City general fund’s unaudited actual performance against the budget for the 2015 fiscal year.
These numbers will be carried into the Fiscal Year 2017 budget process, which begins with a joint Council-School Board meeting next month, even as there continues a veritable flurry of budget-related activity ranging from prospective approval of new large scale development projects to major capital improvement issues facing the City schools and governmental buildings.
By LaCondre’s numbers, the City has made a steady and almost complete rebound from the impacts of the last decade’s Great Recession and of the costs of litigating and losing access to transferable funds from the City water system.
A general rebound in the wider economy, robust residential real estate value growth, and yields from major new mixed use development projects built since 2003 are combining to strengthen the City ability to press ahead with new infrastructure improvements and with optimism about what the development of the 34 acres of now-City held property at the site of its high and middle schools may yield.
Budget to actual numbers for FY15 (the fiscal year ending last June 30) showed a net gain of $944,177, with revenues coming in ahead by 0.3 percent of budget (a $215,699 gain), and government expenditures being held 1.9 percent below budget (a $713,944 gain).
Over and above that, voluntary concessions for school capital costs saw $680,000 coming in from the Northgate project, with $2,035,481 projected to come from the 301 West Broad (Rushmark/Harris Teeter) project and $1,577,310 from the Lincoln at Tinner Hill project expected in the next year to be used on the Mt. Daniel Elementary renovation and expansion.
LaCondre noted that the City’s total fund balance of $31,095,861 includes a robust $14,274,680 in an unassigned category, a form of a “rainy day fund” that at the present time is well over the range required by City ordinance. The range is supposed to be between 12 and 17 percent, but it is currently at 18.5 percent.
Reversing earlier trends, the City enjoyed a robust 6.6 percent increase in its personal property tax collections, a 3.7 percent increase in its sales tax and a 3.3 percent increase in its meals tax yields, indicating positive growth of the City’s commercial and retail components, one of the yields anticipated from the new gains in large scale mixed use projects in town.
The capital reserves include $1,643,859 from the sale of parcels of downtown City-owned land and $9,358,000 as an aspect from the sale of the City’s water system. Of the water sale proceeds, planned uses in the City’s Capital Improvement Plan include $3,466,146 for parking.
“This shows us moving in the right direction,” School Board chair Justin Castillo quipped in an understated way to the News-Press following LaCondre’s presentation to his board Tuesday night.
As the City’s Economic Development Office has evaluated, six new mixed use projects in the City, all built since 2003, have yielded $7.1 million in gross, direct, annual tax revenue to the City from real estate and personal property taxes, as well as taxes generated by business tenants in these buildings.
Their analysis also showed that the new projects yield about $38,688 per year for every child residing in them who attends Falls Church City Schools, a hefty net plus over the $15,703 that it costs to educate a child.
“In aggregate,” according to the EDO report, “mixed use development has proven itself a reliable generator of millions of dollars each year in new tax revenue and positive net fiscal impact for the City.”