On Monday night by a series of unanimous votes to adopt the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, the Falls Church City Council voted to lower the City’s real estate tax rate by 3.5 cents to $1.32 per $100 assessed valuation.
It marked the first time since 2006 that the F.C. Council voted for a reduction in the tax rate.
The cut, significantly below the modest 1 cent reduction proposed by City Manager Wyatt Shields in March, was realized without the benefit of some significant help due from the federal government this summer, but, as Councilman Phil Duncan put it, “from hard work and prudent management by the Council” and, most of all, the benefits of the City’s robust economic development that will bring major yields from a number of large scale mixed use projects to the City’s tax base.
With the new rate, the Council unanimously adopted its Fiscal Year 2022 budget of $106 million, including the full sum requested by the City Schools.
While preferring an even deeper cut, Councilman Ross Litkenhous said he supported the cut to $1.32 because it signals three things to City taxpayers and the wider region, in general. First, it shows the Council’s willingness to give back to the taxpayers, second, it demonstrates the use of voluntary concessions by major mixed use developers to relief the City’s debt burden, and, third, the benefits of robust economic development as promised to the community.
He noted that despite the pandemic and the huge investment in major renovations of two of the City’s five schools and the construction of an entirely new state-of-the-art high school, and the growing vibrancy of the City, the Council’s “plan is working,” and he predicted more tax cuts to come, lowering the rate ot as little as $1,20 in five years, and $1.10 after ten years. “This is an incredible achievement,” he added. “It is an embarrassment of riches, a beautifully-designed perfect storm.”
Litkenhous added, “We will have the courage to repeat the accomplishments of this year, to make this the norm and not the exception.”
Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly noted that this marked the third straight year that the City and its school system operated “in the spirit of revenue sharing,” with the schools staying within the guidance provided by the Council yet again.
Mayor David Tarter said that “economic development and careful planning” have been key, and that there is a lot more to come. He cited the ability of the City to provide the revenue asked for by the schools, the prospects for a new mega-Whole Foods coming downtown, the 10-acre project coming at the West End, the completion of the Founders Row project approaching completion at W. Broad and N. West Streets, all driven by the Council’s “careful, thoughtful process” that has “turned the corner on the tax rate.”