In a split vote, the Falls Church City Council moved Tuesday to return to taxpayers $933,000 of its $3.4 million surplus from the recent fiscal year. The preliminary vote was 4-2 with Mayor Nader Baroukh not present, and the four “yes” votes came from the four Council members who initially approved the move, along with providing the City’s schools with $600,000 for technology upgrades.
The plan calls for the refund to be allocated in the form of credits on real estate taxes due in the next billing in December.
The credit, according to a memo to the Council from City Manager Wyatt Shields “will be noted as a separate line on the real estate tax bills mailed this coming Nov. 1.”
It will be implemented for real estate property owners of record and calculated based on the value of real estate property being taxed effective Jan. 1, 2012.
As an example, for a taxpayer with property assessed at $600,000, the credit shown on the December tax bill will be $173.40.
A final, second reading vote by the Council is expected on Oct. 22.
The measure is an outgrowth of the highly-contentious dispute on the Council in September that wound up, by a 4-3 vote, funding the schools’ technology needs and providing the tax rebate from the surplus.
The debate that involved a lot of heated rhetoric over a number of weeks of the summer extended into Tuesday’s vote, as Council member Johannah Barry said the decision that went against her by the 4-3 vote to allocate the surplus was “wrong headed,” calling it “ineffective at least,” and otherwise, “a deeply cynical act.”
She decried a process that would give a small rebate only to have the Council come back and “facing expense growth twice as high as revenue growth,” have to boost the tax rate.
But Vice Mayor Snyder, who chaired Tuesday’s meeting as Baroukh was on a regional government leaders’ tour of Taiwan, took issue with Barry, saying “there is nothing inevitable about a tax increase,” saying the projections presented at the Council’s planning retreat last month were “based on year old revenue projections.”
Snyder also took issue with the sharply-worded 11-minute statement that Councilman Ira Kaylin read into the record at the Council’s Sept. 24 meeting. Kaylin lashed out at the four members of the Council who voted to allocate the $3.4 million to the schools and for a tax rebate, even though two of the members in question, including Snyder and Ron Peppe, were not present to respond.
Snyder’s reply Tuesday was restrained, only mentioning “pointed comments directed specifically to me,” and saying that he “respectfully disagreed with the conclusions and characterization of my vote.”
Kaylin’s comments were laced with harsh criticisms of Snyder, Peppe and David Tartar, being permitted by Mayor Baroukh to read his entire essay in violation of time limits for just-adopted Council rules. A fourth Council member, Phil Duncan, also voted against Kaylin earlier, and was there for the statement. Although sitting at Kaylin’s elbow, Duncan was spared any of the criticism Kaylin hurled at other Council members.
In briefly reporting on Kaylin’s comments in last week’s edition, the News-Press erroneously attributed Kaylin’s claim to “immoral, unethical and cruel” behavior to refer to the the vote of the four-member majority on the allocation of the surplus.
Instead, Kaylin said, “If Mr. Snyder genuinely wants to cut expenditures in Fiscal Year 2014, it is critical that potential cuts be evaluated now. It would be immoral, unethical and cruel to wait until April of next year to inform staff that there will be staff and program reductions with no warning or opportunity to find new jobs.”
In another action this Tuesday, the Council have preliminary approval to the allocation of a portion of the surplus from the Fiscal Year 2012 budget that resulted from unspent money (that total being $1.6 million). The action was to add $566,836 to the General Fund.
The expenditures are for $434,000 in information technology for a “system modernization project,” $28,800 to the police department for purchase of a “policy management system” and a refresh of uniforms, $70,000 to the Court and Human Services division for improvements to the Gage House, $31,780 to the Parks and Recreation Department for repairs to the Frady Park gazebo, damaged during the “Derecho” storm last summer, and $260,000 for an increase in the City’s contribution to lighting at the George Mason High School softball and baseball fields.
CORRECTION: The tax rebate amount voted on by the Council was incorrectly reported as $933 million. The amount has been corrected in the article and the headline to $933,000.