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F.C. Council’s Surprise Unanimous Vote On FY19 Budget Included Full School Request

A PORTION OF THE standing-room-only crowd that jammed into the F.C. City Council meeting Monday night. All were there to show support for the School Board’s budget request as the Council mulled its final vote on the FY19 budget. (Photo: News-Press)

Who among all those who squeezed into Monday night’s Falls Church City Council meeting expected the Council to vote unanimously, 7-0, for a Fiscal Year 2019 budget of $93 million that would include the full School Board transfer request of a 2.8 increase, permitting a 3 percent cost-of-living salary increase for all school employees? Given the rhetoric and impassioned arguments of recent weeks on the Council, it seems as likely a majority would have voted to chop that School request down to a 2 percent growth number.

But after hearing more compelling arguments by teachers, school and PTA leaders, and the general public, at the opening of Monday’s meeting — and not one person arguing the other way — members of the Council, one by one, made generally lengthy comments about the budget, focusing both on the good and the not so good, and begin aligning their allegiances with the School Board request.

The strongest protests to the School Board component came, predictably, from those most vocal in their concerns all along, Council members Phil Duncan and Letty Hardi. But while Duncan’s comments held ground on the need to cut the School request, Hardi’s lengthy commentary followed and abruptly concluded with her announcement that she would vote for the School request.

So, when the roll call was taken, it appeared that Duncan might be the only dissenting vote, but he voted “yea” to make it 7-0.

A large contingent of School teachers and staff, including Superintendent Peter Noonan and most of the School Board, remained in the room following the standing-room-only crunch at the start of the meeting, to hear the vote. Outside the Senior Center room at the Community Center, where the Council is now meeting while the year-long renovation of City Hall is underway, Noonan expressed his pleasure with the vote, saying to the News-Press, “I am very excited to be able to move forward now. I am grateful to everyone that we can move forward together, and begin recruiting the best and the brightest.”