Local Commentary

Editorial: Don’t Let Taxes Get Too High

Unfortunately, it can be considered a rule of thumb that the more the tax rate in Falls Church becomes at variance with the rates of surrounding jurisdictions, the more likely it will become at some point that the City will come under pressure to relinquish its sovereignty as an independent city. That breaking point has not arrived yet, but there have always been those voices in the City and the region who’ve advocated for the City to be absorbed into one or another of its much larger neighboring jurisdictions.

First, the argument needs to be made why this should not happen. There is a distinct advantage to the residents of any community to the degree they enjoy control over how their tax dollars are spent. In large jurisdictions like Fairfax County and Arlington County, individual citizen tax dollars are far more likely to be absorbed into relatively vast countywide programs and the prevailing political pressures in such situations seem always to go to the most entrenched and empowered interests, and the “little guy,” regardless of the merits, hardly has a chance for his arguments.

In fact, we’ve suspected on more than a few occasions powerful interests based outside our Little City have sought to meddle in our politics to the nefarious end of forcing us to give up our autonomy (we don’t suspect Putin). The biggest factor that would contribute to such an unhappy inevitability would be the inability or the unwillingness of City taxpayers to foot the bill for the benefits the small City provides, especially the quality and individual attention the school system affords its students.

Simply put, keeping the City affordable for its residents under the pressures from the schools can only happen with aggressive economic development that attracts outside dollars into the City. Therefore, to our mind, when a big anti-development push comes along, we tend to be suspicious of some peoples’ ulterior motives.

It’s like the sorry folks who cheered the election of Trump because it would lead to the end of Obamacare, failing to realize that they depend on Obamacare themselves. Oops! The consequences of anti-development activism could result in much less pleasant, “unintended” outcomes.

The required dynamic in the City of Falls Church must be for continued robust economic development, and the good news is that the City has finally caught the fancy of the large regional development community that is now seeing great opportunities here.

In this context, the other good news is that citizens so far continue have the degree of control they do here over the looks and uses of stuff that gets proposed.

So, we caution all involved in the Campus Redevelopment process not to burden the citizens with too much too soon without seeing just how much economic development on 10 acres of that site can bring. Mitigating that cost with a lot of fresh development is the win-win the schools and the community both require.