Letters to the Editor: April 3 – 9, 2014
Puzzled by City’s New Stormwater Definitions
You probably haven’t heard yet (because this is a fictional example designed to make a point) but a sincere need for dog-related improvements in the City has resulted in a “Dog Fee” that will be collected from every resident with a canine companion.
In the “Dog Fee Rollout Process” (or “differp”) the City’s website offered the following: “A dog refers to any four-legged canis lupus familiaris and includes breeds like German Shepherd, Poodle, and Bulldog. The City’s Dog Fee further defines “dog” as a wolfpack (even the one-wolf variety), Greyhound bus, cat, bird, mongoose, houseplant, vicuña, or any non-human living within an inhabited residential/commercial structure that requires care or feeding (stuffed dogs are open to a credit discount).
Residents were perplexed. Sure, the City’s dog parks, dog runs, and animal control office needed to be funded appropriately…but to define a “dog” in this fashion caused no small amount of uproar. Long story short, the City acknowledged its error and redefined “dog as dog” for the eventual application of the “Dog Fee.”
You probably have heard that Falls Church City has decided to impose a Stormwater Utility Fee based on a site’s impervious surface. The City’s website offered the following: “Impervious cover refers to any man made surfaces, like asphalt, concrete, and rooftops, that water cannot penetrate. With these surfaces rain and snow that would otherwise soak into the ground turns into stormwater runoff when it comes into contact with impervious surfaces. The Falls Church Stormwater Utility Fee further defines impervious cover as asphalt driveways/walkways, concrete driveways/walkways/stairs/patios, rooftops of homes, garages, sheds/storage containers, pools and concrete pool decks, decks over concrete slabs (decks over uncompacted stone are considered pervious), compacted stone driveways, compacted soil with no vegetation, and porous pavers (paver systems are open to a credit discount).”
I am perplexed. Stormwater utilities assuredly demand upkeep. But my bluestone gravel driveway is not an impervious surface. Water penetrates it easily – therefore it is not “impervious,” and should not be billed as such. Calling it impervious does not change its actual nature. Little City, let’s get this one right.
Use the Fund Balance & Lower Taxes
So, the City staff thinks that Falls Church should keep up to a 25 percent fund balance because we are “subject to volatility?” Really? What volatility would that be? This assertion hit the News-Press in the same issue as a report from the U.S. Census Bureau showing that the City continues to top the nation in both income and education. And back in Sept 2008, during arguably the most volatile period to hit this region in half a century, the News-Press reported a budget shortfall of less than 1%. This in contrast to the much worse situation in neighboring districts at the time.
Saying “volatility” to justify sitting on a mound of cash with no actual evidence that volatility is seriously a risk to City operations is just the City managers using whatever argument they can think of to justify what they’ve already decided to do. Use part of the fund balance and lower the tax rate. Do it now.
Do We Need New Leadership in The Little City?
I strongly concur with the positions expressed by James Schoenberger and Charles Plymire in the News-Press editions of February 20 and March 20, respectively. Current events should inform us that “tax and spend” is not a sustainable policy.
Do our leaders have the business acumen and savvy to work through this challenge or do we need new leaders at the helm of our “Little City”?
Via the Internet
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