With four budget “scenarios” before them tonight with proposed tax rates ranging from the current $1.27 to City Manager Wyatt Shields’ proposed $1.33, the Falls Church City Council could not reach a consensus tonight, and will therefore have to reconvene on Thursday night in order to come to an agreement in advance of its final vote next Monday.
The range was slightly narrowed to between $1.29 (per $100 of assessed real estate valuation)
to $1.31, but that was with Vice Mayor David Snyder not present. There was also a consensus that the schools should not get their full request, although only one of the four paper scenarios specified a cut an increase in the schools’ request from 14.3 percent to 10 percent, bringing the schools $1,259,980 short of their request.
That scenario is still very much on the table, and Councilman Ira Kaylin set the table for a run on the schools’ request with a scathing prepared statement accusing the schools of “fear mongering,” credibility problems and “an appearance of conflict of interest.”
School Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones was in the room along with a large contingent of school supporters. By the rules of a work session, they were not permitted to speak, and sat through an hour and a half discussion of the budget that included Kaylin repeating his charges. Only Councilman Phil Duncan, who did not escape Kaylin’s wrath, took a mild swipe at Kaylin’s incivility by saying he must be having a bad day, to which Kaylin retorted that he is not.
Kaylin lashed out at the school board request, and Council member Johannah Barry followed suit, saying that “the rising trajectory of the school budget” has to be scaled back. Other Council members present then followed the tone of Councilman Ron Peppe’s call for compromise by all parties, even as Duncan said he felt “there is a communications disconnect at the core of this budget.”
Two points raised included (1) despite the fact that up to a $2 million surplus having just been found in the current Fiscal Year 13 budget last week, the news did nothing to relieve the pressures on either cutting the schools’ request or the tax rate and (2) on top of whatever the new real estate tax rate will be, there will also be the added burden on taxpayers of funding a new Storm Water Utility to the tune of an average $250 per household, even though annual payments on that would be put off until a year from June.
The issue that drew the most applause at Saturday’s Town Hall meeting on the budget, the bloated size of the City’s fund balance, did not come up at all tonight.
Council members will meet Thursday to do more fine tuning on the numbers in hopes of, as Mayor Nader Baroukh said, getting four or them to agree for purposes of Monday’s vote.