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Optimism Reigns at F.C. City Council Budget Work Session

A LENGTHY FALLS CHURCH City Council budget work session Monday night kept F.C. Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly tied to her duties displaying her loyalties to her alma mater Villanova even as her beloved Wildcats were marching to an NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship. We hope she got out of there at least in time to see the 'Cats buzzer-beating winning basket. (Photo: News-Press)
A LENGTHY FALLS CHURCH City Council budget work session Monday night kept F.C. Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly tied to her duties displaying her loyalties to her alma mater Villanova even as her beloved Wildcats were marching to an NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship. We hope she got out of there at least in time to see the ‘Cats buzzer-beating winning basket. (Photo: News-Press)

A Falls Church City Council work session Monday night dealt with many nitty-gritty issues on the $87 million budget for the coming fiscal year that it is now considering, but an underlying theme of can-do optimism and amazing potential seeped through the deliberations. Indicative was a rather off-hand comment amid a short presentation on revisions to the West Broad Street Area Plan when Principal Planner Paul Stoddard noted that being added to the public narrative on the vision for the commercially-zoned area on W. Broad (Rt. 7) between Little Falls and the W&OD Bike Trail “could be developed to add $6 to $14 million annually in new revenues to the City.”

Council member Phil Duncan zeroed in on that comment, saying that if the Falls Church taxpaying public appreciated that, it would realize that the City could do just about anything it needed in terms of development, services and maintenance of its world class schools without having ever to unduly burden its individual real estate taxpayers.

As the Council moved to within three weeks of its deadline of the adoption of the new budget that will go into effect July 1, it began tonight’s meeting welcoming the School Board and Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones, who provided an extraordinarily detailed and precise acquittal of the schools’ request in the current budget for a 5.39 percent increase in the transfer of funds from the City. Jones provided detailed answers to 16 questions that the Council had presented to the School Board in writing, and demonstrated how enrollment growth, pressures to retail quality teachers and outside funding pressures accounted for every dollar of the request.

When the discussion came around the City operations budget, Chief Financial Officer Richard LaCondre told the Council that that variables which could cause headaches for the budget are the fact that the City has not been keeping pace with needed infrastructure improvements, including replacement of indispensable vehicles,rising health insurance costs and greater obligations to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which City Manager Wyatt Shields has proposed to offset with personal property tax and cigarette tax revenues to the tune of a half-million in the coming budget.

Key decisions ahead for the Council center on its Capital Improvement Programs budget, including whether or not to deploy half a million in funds offered by the City’s Economic Development Authority for construction of a new civic plaza in the 100 block of W. Broad, and how far to progress with the plan to renovate and expand City Hall. That question also involves whether or not the City needs structured parking on Park Avenue beyond what adding a second deck to surface parking at City Hall would provide.

The Council will host a second town hall on the budget this Saturday, then hold a public hearing at its regular business meeting this Monday. The budget is scheduled for final adoption on April 25