On Eve of Budget Adoption, F.C. Council Wavers on Reserve Fund

April 20, 2017 9:17 AM0 comments
AT MONDAY NIGHT'S Falls Church City Council meeting, Assistant City Manager Cindy Mester and School Chief Financial Officer Hunter Kimball, with backs to the camera, come before three of the seven Council members present shown here, Letty Hardi (far left), David Snyder and Mayor David Tarter. (Photo: News-Press)

AT MONDAY NIGHT’S Falls Church City Council meeting, Assistant City Manager Cindy Mester and School Chief Financial Officer Hunter Kimball, with backs to the camera, come before three of the seven Council members present shown here, Letty Hardi (far left), David Snyder and Mayor David Tarter. (Photo: News-Press)

With just a week to go before the scheduled final adoption of the City of Falls Church budget for Fiscal Year 2018, the F.C. City Council Monday night could not reach a consensus on the touchy issue of asking taxpayers to fund a $1.2 million addition to the City’s reserves.

The funds, over and above the cost of an $88 million annual operating budget for the City and its schools, would add three cents to the real estate tax rate.

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.

With $125,000 in unexpected savings off the City’s obligation to WMATA, Shields’ plan is to remove the penny by cutting $137,000 from the schools and the same from the City operating budget.

The Solomonic solution 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.

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