Local Commentary

Editorial: Mixed Use Keeps Taxes Low

Two of the candidates for the Falls Church City Council, as they confirmed in last week’s candidates’ forum at City Hall, are hanging their proverbial hats on a call for a “moratorium” on mixed-use development in the Little City.

But we’re not sure what taxpayers in the City think about that. It is clear that mixed-use projects have saved homeowners tons of money, almost any way you cut it. Those who would sow doubt about that have nothing but a sense – not backed up by the facts at all – that mixed use projects cost the City net revenue because of the added children that they bring to the school system.

This is simply not the case, and if certain citizens insist on this myth, they do so at the peril of seeing their taxes go up far faster than they otherwise would.

Six mixed-use projects that have been built since 2003 have generated a whopping $7.1 million in gross, direct, annual tax revenue to the City from real estate and personal property taxes and taxes generated in their buildings. According to a document issued by the City’s Economic Development Office, these projects contribute $38,688 in tax revenues for every year per pupil that lives in those buildings.

Since the cost of educating a child in the Falls Church School System now is $15,703 per child, then the mixed use projects are contributing to the City’s tax base a net surplus value of almost $23,000 per child.

(By contrast to this, almost two thirds of the pupils in the F.C. School System come from among the City’s 2,368 single family homes, according to the most recent numbers. Calculating the total taxes generated from these homes, they add up to $10,400 per year for every child who dwells in one of those single family homes. That means that the City is subsidizing every child attending the City’s schools to the tune of $5,303 per year).

First, new mixed-use projects generate far more revenue than all the students residing in them cost. Second, single family homes have to be subsidized by taxpayers to the tune of $5,303 for every child living in them.

What about this data is unclear? People can dispute the data, but on what grounds?

On top of this, mixed-use projects have also contributed some $3.4 million in cash so far for school capital needs as part of packages of “proffers” that each of them have provided the City.

Then there are other intangible benefits, such as the money spent by residents in the mixed use projects at businesses and restaurants in the City. There is a symbiotic relationship operating in mixed-use projects: more residents in the homes bring more money to the businesses downstairs. At a certain point, a critical mass is reached, and the businesses thrive.

All this helps to keep individual taxes down. What’s not to like?