Local Commentary

A Budget for a World Class City

The Fiscal Year 2023 budget for the City of Falls Church, at over $100 million certainly not the biggest in the region, but it sets a moral standard for responsible local government that takes care to address the range of priorities and needs from individual taxpayers, to seniors and others on fixed incomes, to sustainably quality schools, excellent local government and services, including for ongoing transportation and walkability demands, and the need for continued robust economic development to insure strong revenue growth going forward. Attention to fair and responsible salaries for City and school employees, and a $15 per hour minimum wage took a center policy role. But the biggest single factor was to mitigate the impact of the region’s booming growth on local taxpayers with what looks like will be the biggest cut in the real estate tax rate ever for the Little City, a cut of 9 cents to $1.23 per $100 of assessed valuation, down from $1.32 at present and from $1.355 a year ago.

That lower rate will still mean that City residents will still be paying more in net tax dollars than a year ago, about $600 on average. But the Council was responsive to the urging of the City’s Economic Development Authority and Chamber of Commerce to cancel a proposed modest use of its taxing authority for commercial and industrial interests, looking elsewhere to find the $420,000 a new tax would have brought in. This leaves the City as the only jurisdiction in the entire region that continues to eschew the use of that tax, which localities were authorized to levy at their discretion by the General Assembly in 2013. It reflects the sophisticated realization that has been governing policy making in this Little City for the last quarter century. It is a realization that says the kind of world quality educational system the City now offers, including its new $120 million state-of-the-art high school campus and a full K-12 International Baccalaureate curriculum with highly talented teachers to execute it, is made possible by a level of commitment to quality economic development that, in fact, is continuing to happen along the City’s commercial corridors.

It is no coincidence that the new high school, now completed on time and under budget, has been built aside the old one, which was able to be demolished to make room for 10 acres of high-density mixed use development about to begin. That was highly deliberate, and now the development that’s going to come will pay for that new school and all its amenities.

Those who’ve been around here a while, and paying attention, know this already, but it bears repeating that this is a phenomenal bit of local governing, and there’s a lot more associated with it, too. Falls Church’s growing population, now about 15,000 and rising, is and will in the coming period enjoy living in an increasingly, truly world class Little City.