Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields strongly defended his recommended three cents on the real estate tax rate to a work session of the Falls Church City Council Monday night on grounds that building reserves will help to lower the longer term cost to City taxpayers of the cost of a new high school, a bond referendum for which is slated to be on the November ballot. In the first work session since Shields introduced his recommended budget, he said that adding $1.2 million by a three-cent increase in the tax rate will combine with $3.9 million in existing reserves to lower the longer-term cost of the project, which could run anything from $75 to $110 million at this point. The set-aside money would alleviate the early pressures of debt servicing the project if it passes muster with voters in November, he said. “If you save money now, you have to borrow less later,” he argued.
But Council member Phil Duncan asked for Shields to provide numbers for a budget with no tax rate increase, noting that even that would represent a growth budget buoyed by economic growth in the City to be a 2.5-percent increase overall. Even with no tax rate increase, the budget will be a “growth budget” for the City and for the schools, both he noted.
The Council will vote to advertise a tax rate at its meeting this coming Monday, and when it does, it commits to a number that can’t go up but only down between then and when the final budget for the coming fiscal year is adopted in late April. The Council this Monday will also have to decide what it wants to do about the added $2.1 million that has been added to the price tag for the renovation and expansion of the Mt. Daniel Elementary Project.