March 14, 2013

Let’s Hear from YOU as Council Starts Work on Budget

At the City Council meeting March 11, City Manager Wyatt Shields proposed a FY2014 budget of $74.9 million, to pay for general government and schools operating expenses as well as long-term infrastructure needs.

Now come three public hearings and two town hall meetings, leading up to Council’s adoption of a final budget on April 22. The first Town Hall meeting is this Saturday, March 16 at 10 a.m. in the Community Center. City and schools staff will present information on the budget, and then take your questions and comments. If you can’t attend in person, you can comment via email to budget@fallschurchva.gov. I’d be happy to hear your views — please e-mail or phone, or grab me when I’m out and around in The City.

Below are my opening thoughts on the budget, as expressed at Council’s March 11 meeting (edited a bit for clarity):

“This seems like a time of high expectations, with still fairly modest resources. We want to recapture the ground we’ve given up on school funding — we’ve kept things pretty flat in recent years — we want to do a lot of that, right now. We want a stormwater utility fund, right now. We want to do infrastructure work on City Hall, right now. And in various other categories, we’re in a pretty expansive mindset. But our resources are still fairly modest.

“Some of the things Mr. [Vice Mayor David] Snyder said about [the stresses on] individual taxpayers — certainly that’s what we all hear. As for the City’s resources, we’re just at the beginning of what I hope will be a campaign of economic development. I would hope that we can get ourselves on a course to produce $1 or $2 million dollars in new revenue every year. Because if we don’t do that, Councils years from now will be starting out the budget process where we start out tonight — with significantly more needs than we have the revenue to meet.

“But I am optimistic. I think five years from now, whoever’s sitting in these chairs is going to look back on this as a time when we DID meet these challenges, because that’s what Falls Church does. We take these challenges on, and we meet them. It will be a combination of some belt-tightening, it will be some economic development, I hope, and it will be some taxation.

“I would hope that we could all start out this budgeting process not staking out unchangeable positions. I’m certainly open to listening to dialogue, and I know the schools will be, too, and I know my colleagues on Council will be, also.”

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