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F.C. School Board Chair Hails Mayor at Town Hall Meeting

In a surprise development today, City of Falls Church School Board Chair Joan Wodiska, often sharp-tongued in her passionate defense of the interests of the City’s schools in the face of difficult budget times, stood to speak at the final town hall meeting on the City’s budget and hailed the constructive role of Mayor Nader Baroukh in the process. “We have a good friend in the mayor and the things he’s doing for the schools,” she said. “The City Council has been incredibly collaborative and committed to ensuring we have world class schools in the City of Falls Church. I am very confident things are going to go well for the schools.”

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HEAVY RAINS held down attendance at today’s City Council-sponsored Town Hall meeting on the Fiscal Year 2012 budget held at the Community Center. (Photo: News-Press)

In a surprise development today, City of Falls Church School Board Chair Joan Wodiska, often sharp-tongued in her passionate defense of the interests of the City’s schools in the face of difficult budget times, stood to speak at the final town hall meeting on the City’s budget and hailed the constructive role of Mayor Nader Baroukh in the process. “We have a good friend in the mayor and the things he’s doing for the schools,” she said. “The City Council has been incredibly collaborative and committed to ensuring we have world class schools in the City of Falls Church. I am very confident things are going to go well for the schools.”

Speaking to a small gathering at the Community Center that included Wodiska Baroukh, Vice Mayor David Snyder, Council members Robin Gardner and Ira Kaylin and Superintendent Lois Berlin and School Board vice chair Patrick Riccards and other City officials, City Manager Wyatt Shields outlined the parameters of the next fiscal year budget as the Council closes in on its April 25 deadline for its adoption.

While final decisions have yet to be made (they will come at next Thursday’s work session and the final budget meeting on April 25 as this Monday’s normal meeting date is cancelled due to Passover),Shields said the debate centers now mostly on the amount of the real estate tax rate, since those taxes account for a full 61 percent of the City’s annual revenues. With the current rate at $1.24 per $100 assessed valuation, Shields recommended a single penny increase last month, but last week revised his recommendation to a new rate of $1.28. His primary concern, he said, is for anticipated major increases in costs coming in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget, related to pension costs that are beyond the City’s control. That, and an early restoration of the City’s fund balance to its target level (12 percent of annual expenditures), justify the overall four-cent rate increase, he said, although the stablization he hopes will derive from that is predicated on an uncertain three percent overall growth in the economy.

Since 2009, Shields noted, the expected adoption of the next fiscal year budget will mark a decline by 13 percent of the number of City employees, from 206 to 179. Among the changes to his original recommendations he reported that the City Council has agreed to so far are: 1. tabling the plan for a five-cent commercial real estate tax overlay, 2. restoring to current funding levels of the outlay for the City library, 3. limiting a renovation of City Hall to critical maintenance, 4. providing funds for critical maintenance of the City’s parks, and 5. increasing the annual sum, in the form of a one-time bonus instead of a salary increase, to all City employees from $1,300 as proposed by Shields to $1,800. The budget also includes bonding for a $5.95 million expansion of Thomas Jefferson Elementary, increases of the City’s auto decal fee from $25 to $30 and the personal property tax rate from $4.91 to $4.84, averaging out as a $18 annual increase for a car valued at $20,000. There will be an excess trash fee introduced of $1 per bag (for what does not fit into the new trash canisters) and an increase from 50 cents to $1 per bag for leaf and twig bags.

 

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