A 13 percent decline in the size of the City’s workforce in three years, combined with a salary freeze over that time, added to a zero-growth transfer to the school system to balance a $65 million Fiscal Year 2012 budget for the City of Falls Church approved by the F.C. City Council tonight at a real estate tax rate of $1.27, up from $1.24 of $100 of assessed valuation in the current year. The austerity budget was due to a “cascading series of events” over which previous City Councils did not have control, Vice Mayor David Snyder commented prior to the vote tonight, related to the Great Recession and water litigation against the City.
Despite the restraint in the budget, it includes bonding for $5.4 million in capital improvements for the schools, $1 million for “critical maintenance” at City Hall, a maintenance of current levels of service at the public library, $200,000 for “critical maintenance” of City parks, and one-time $1,800 offsets for all City employees to help cope with added employee burdens on covering pension, retirement and health insurance costs.
Staff reductions include the loss of a GIS operator, a graphics specialist, a part-time librarian, a Housing and Human Services director, and an emergency police dispatcher, along with shifting a full-time sheriff deputy position to part time.
Other rate and fee increases include an increase in the auto decal fee from $25 to $33 and in the personal property tax from $4.71 per $100 of assessed valuation, which amounts to an average $18 annual increase for a $20,000 car, and an average 2.8 percent increase for City businesses.
A motion to amend the budget ordinance to reduce the transfer to the City’s schools by $390,000 made by Councilman Ira Kaylin and seconded by Johannah Barry was defeated 5-2 prior to the final vote tonight. Kaylin conceded his amendment was a “symbolic gesture” at evening out the compensation levels between City and school employees, as the school budget includes a salary increase of one full “step” commencing the middle of next year.
According to current projections, City Manager Wyatt Shields indicated that with a 3 percent growth rate, the Fiscal Year 2013 budget, because of big increases in pension fund requirements among other things, will require another 5 cent increase in the real estate rate.