The adoption of a new fiscal policy for the City of Falls Church designed to enable the City Council to begin tacking on five cents per year on the real estate tax rate this coming year for the next three years was delayed Monday night when the complexities of the proposed policy began to overwhelm Council members. It will come back for consideration the next time the Council meets in January.
The plan is designed to provide the Council with the “policy” justification for having City taxpayers begin paying for the most expensive option for construction of a new high school at least three years prior to any actual construction, and that would also be prior to any citizen approval of a bond referendum for such an undertaking. If approved the policy would enable the introduction of a five-cent (per $100 of assessed valuation) real estate tax increase for each of the next three years, a five-cent hike the first year, with five cents added on the second and another five cents the third, to build a reserve of $6 million which would be used to sit idly in the City’s unassigned fund balance solely for the purpose of convincing the New York bond markets that lending the $115 million for the new high school (should the voters approve the bond sale).
These rate hikes would be on top of an additional 2.5 cents that the City Hall renovation will cost taxpayers and the 1.5 cents that the library renovation, approved in a referendum last month, will cost, and that is before any consideration of additional needs of the City or its school system, with its exploding enrollment growth, are taken into account.
Councilman Dan Sze was the only one of the seven members (Councilman David Snyder was absent tonight) who suggested that maybe some way of calculating how economic development might offset these projected tax rate hikes be factored in. Councilman Phil Duncan echoed the sentiment when the Council considered its next item, a measure offering budget guidance to the city manager for the upcoming budget cycle. Council member Karen Oliver said she couldn’t see how such an inclusion was relevant, but voted yes with the majority, anyway.
It was vice mayor Marybeth Connelly who proposed delaying the vote on the fiscal policy revisions, even though Oliver cautioned that by doing so, the Council might not have time to include the new policy guidelines in the upcoming Fiscal Year 2018 budget that will be developed next spring.