The Falls Church City Council voted to adopt a budget for the coming fiscal year granting the full 14.3% increase in the School Board request with a tax rate of $1.305. The vote was 5-2 (Kaylin and Barry voting no).
A standing room only crowd that jammed the Council chambers tonight was overwhelmingly in support of full funding for the schools, and there was a lot of hugging and handshakes once the vote was taken.
Falls School Schools Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones told the News-Press, “I am grateful for the children and the staff, for the kids and the teachers,” she said, filled with emotion. “I believe that people will do what’s right. We have real needs and were able to share that with the community and the Council saw the effect of that this year.”
The budget was adopted from among five options that confronted the Council at the beginning of the meeting. While a plan by Councilman Phil Duncan was withdrawn, the main contention developed over an option supported by Council members Ira Kaylin and Johannah Barry that proposed cutting the School Board request by $1.3 million.
While Kaylin and Barry spoke passionately in support of their plan, in the name of fiscal balance, the vote failed 5-2, with only their votes in favor.
There was subsequently no support for a plan to cut the Schools request by $344,700 and then a modification to an original plan for full School funding was introduced by Vice Mayor David Snyder, cutting a half cent on the tax rate, won the majority vote, 5-2.
The Council subsequently voted into being a Storm Water Utility Fund, but the budget vote included use of surplus money to delay the imposition of storm water fees until June 2014.
The winning budget plan tonight also included a minor reduction in the City’s fund balance goal of 17% to 16.1% percent, and funded the continuation of Falls Church Cable TV, while foregoing the hiring of an additional police officer or a “sustainability coordinator.”
Among those in the SRO audience tonight was Jesse Thackrey, a founding member of the Falls Church School System who will be turning 100 this summer. She was accompanied by her son who spoke in favor of full School funding.