With one week to go before the scheduled final adoption of the City of Falls Church budget for Fiscal Year 2018, the F.C. City Council could not reach a consensus on the touchy issue of asking taxpayers to fund a $1.2 million addition to the City’s reserves, over and above the cost of an $88 million annual operating budget for the City and its schools. Monday night’s meeting ended with City Manager Wyatt Shields tasked with presenting a number of options, from no reserve up to the $1.2 million plan, for the Council to decide among at its final budget-adopting session next Monday.
The Council did agree on Shields’ plan to shave a penny off the operating budget, a penny (equal to $400,000) that the School Board asked for above Council (zero-growth) so-called “guidance” because of the intense enrollment growth pressures of the past year. Falls Church City Schools are officially the fastest-growing in terms of student enrollment, in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.
Shields’ plan is to cut half the added penny from the schools and half from the City operating budget, a Solomonic “solution” that would leave the schools even more strapped and, as Shields projected, leaving the City operations without a human resource officer, a task that Assistant City Manager Cindy Mester would fill at the expense of other roles such as director of the City’s state legislative agenda, of the Cable Access channel, and other vital functions.
The Council may delay, at Council member Phil Duncan’s suggestion, a more thorough-going discussion of the City’s capital project needs after the budget is adopted but also after more is known about how much the new high school, middle school and possibly Thomas Jefferson Elementary expansion projects will cost.