Editorial: Drawing Lines on The F.C. Budget

April 9, 2009 4:32 PM0 comments

While the City of Falls Church joins jurisdictions of all shapes and sizes across the U.S., and globally, in tackling with its current budget deliberations the worst fiscal conditions since the Great Depression, lines need to be drawn in a uniquely stark fashion in key areas to define the most important priorities in the community.

1. A line should be drawn around the City’s outstanding school system, critical not only to the City’s core educational mission, but to maintaining the City as a particularly treasured location, contributing to its revenue base with housing values higher than surrounding regions for that reason. Realtors have often said that the reputation of the Falls Church school system is a “value added” on real estate, and therefore the City’s tax base, of 10 to 15 percent. An erosion of the perception of this value would be catastrophic for the City in a number of ways.

2. A line must be drawn around meeting the core needs of the 11,400 citizens of the City, including for adding special assistance services required in hard times, for limiting tax burdens as much as possible, and for maintaining and enhancing vital public safety services.

3. A line should be drawn by many around cornerstones of the City’s future economic prosperity, including the engines of its outreach to the wider region, its festivals and parades, fledgling marketing efforts, and high-profile openness to diversity and willingness to work with developers to make economic growth work. This is the City’s ticket out of the current fiscal squeeze, as the invaluable revenue relief that new development has provided the City since 2001 demonstrates.

4. Most importantly, given the direction the budget deliberations are now taking in the final weeks before the adoption of the new budget on April 27, a line must be drawn between those tough decisions and priorities that can balance the budget in these rugged times, and those who would merely rail against this or that cut, calling for low taxes while keeping expensive but non-performing programs such as the GEORGE bus system, and every other perk the City has been providing especially to its better-off citizens. There should be no-one calling to protect any favorite budget line-item who does not at the same time present an alternative way to balance the budget with it in.

It is easy, but disingenuous and transparently demagogic for anyone to go into a tantrum against policies the city manager has recommended, or that the Council is considering, without presenting a well-reasoned and credible alternative. To merely rage may serve a personal purpose, but it serves no public purpose. It is like someone reduced to a paralyzing hysteria on a sinking ship, rendered as such incapable of helping to deploy the lifeboats. With tough decisions on the immediate horizon, it is time for everyone to come to their senses.

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