Local Commentary

Editorial: More Incentive For Growth

With the higher than earlier thought cost estimates for a new George Mason High School presented by consultants to the Falls Church School Board Tuesday night, the need to find and provide “the highest and best use” for the commercial component of the site becomes even more urgent. Revenues from such a development of up to 10 acres on the 36 acre site are the only way to offset the cost of the project and its impact on citizen tax rates.

The Alvarez and Marsal group retained last week by the Council to assist in the attraction of commercial developers has indicated it intends to pull out all the stops to get the best revenue bottom lines for the City and its taxpayers, and this week’s news only makes that task even more important. Instead of $70 million for a new high school, the estimates brought for this Tuesday are more back in the original range of $110 million and up, with no assurances that numbers won’t go up even further depending on wider economic factors.

Doing the job without providing a competition gym appears to not represent a significant cost saving method, at least according to the options presented this Tuesday. So getting voter approval for an all-new school will be challenging, indeed.

So, we say to all those who are opposed to the commercial and age-restricted real estate development projects currently in the City’s pipeline, we are glad you are apparently prepared to pay the massive increase in taxes that you will be burdened with should you succeed, but for the rest of us, we’d prefer to mitigate such increases with some help from commercial tax revenues.

There are really no options to ballooning real estate taxes hitting home owners in the City, on the one hand, or economic development on the other.
There are those who may think that compelling the City to abandon its independent city status and to be absorbed into our larger, neighboring Fairfax or Arlington counties, will provide some tax relief. Do not be deluded. Taxes are rising all around the region, and no one in Falls Church will be spared the combination of higher taxes and diminished services, including the schools.

The City of Falls Church has the strong relative advantage for its residents of a robust disposition for commercial growth to relieve the tax rate, in the context of the good fortune of its attractiveness to developers by virtue of its location and more personalized experiences with government. This is combined with its existing “value added” factor for its real estate because of the superior reputation of its school system, and the fact that its citizens have an extraordinary level of access to its elected, decision-making officials.

Everyone here is really very lucky. We need to pull together to maintain the good fortune we have. Compared to the alternatives, the City’s is a good deal.