F.C. Chamber of Commerce Votes Its Support for School Bond Referendum

At its monthly board meeting Tuesday morning, the 15 members present of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to endorse a “yes” vote on the $120 million Falls Church school bond referendum on the ballot next month.

Chamber executive director Sally Cole reported that almost the entirety of Tuesday’s meeting was devoted to a thorough discussion of the subject, based on the recommendation of the board’s Legislative Committee that it go on record in favor of a “yes” vote.

In a statement released by the Chamber board Tuesday, it was stated that the passage of the bond referendum “will have a profound impact on the City of Falls Church,” adding, “The Chamber board believes the presence of a new, modern high school is very important to attract new business and new revenue to the City.”

It continues, “A new high school would be more environmentally efficient, safer for teachers and students, be ADA compliant, and would help maintain or increase property values.” It noted that passage of the referendum “would enable up to 10 acres of the property to be developed for commercial tax generating purposes,” while, “on the other hand, incurring such debt is risky given economic uncertainties and doing so would necessitate significant increases in residential and commercial property tax rates.”

The lengthy statement noted that the Chamber’s mission “is to promote local business interests in order to foster economic prosperity and civic well-being in the greater Falls Church community.” It added, “One of the ways in which the Chamber advances its mission is by supporting business and community growth and development,” and then noted that the projected outcomes of the referendum’s passage next month “are not guarantees,” stating “there is risk to either outcome” of the passage or rejection of the referendum.

It concludes, “What is certain is that there is significantly less, if any, opportunity for commercial development if the school is not replaced with a different footprint.”

According to longtime Chamber board member and CPA Michael Diener, the 40-minute discussion of the issue was never contentious Tuesday morning, and the were only very minor suggestions for word changes.

The issue was introduced by Allen Frank, general manager of Eden Center, who heads the board’s Legislative Committee.

The action was reminiscent of the historic decisions by the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce in the early 1990s, when a marked change in the dynamic between the City’s residential interests and those of its business interests took place. Since its founding in 1948, the City of Falls Church saw pro-school forces pitted against anti-tax business interests, often represented by the Chamber of Commerce.

Then in 1994, a fundamental change occurred when the Chamber board of that year weighed in to support full funding for a contentious proposed School Board budget request.

Those recalling the politics of that era saw in that seminal move a shift in the appreciation of the Chamber for the City schools, and of the school community for the merits of the business community’s contribution.

Now, the Chamber, as reflected in Tuesday’s vote, affirms the value of the schools for the economic viability of the City, including for its climate for business development.

Next Tuesday, the Chamber will host all the candidates for City Council qualified for the Nov. 7 ballot in Falls Church at its monthly public luncheon next Tuesday.

The Chamber is not expected to endorse candidates either for the Council or the School Board. Four seats on both the seven-member Council and School Board are being contested in the election.

Tuesday’s candidates forum will follow one this Friday night, Oct. 13, at the Council chambers of City Hall, at 7 p.m. hosted by the Falls Church League of Women Voters and the Village Preservation and Improvement Society.