Local Commentary

Editorial: As for the F.C. Tax Rate

Following the unanimous vote by the Falls Church City Council to give a preliminary OK to the “special exception entitlement” (SEE) for the Falls Church Gateway Partners’ plan to develop the 10.3 acres of the City’s West End, a blizzard of a half-dozen meetings to review and recommend the submission began being held this Tuesday night, planned to wrap up next Wednesday before coming back to the City Council for a final OK in May.

Also, in the context of all the frenzied but reasonable activities going on now to prepare the George Mason High School site for its imminent transformation slated to begin when school lets out in June, the City’s normal operational business is also proceeding apace, with the presentation of City Manager Wyatt Shield’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year set to be presented to the City Council this coming Monday night. Despite all the activity swirling around the City now, including the pending completion of the City Hall expansion and renovation (although put out to the end of April now), the wrestling over higher than expected cost associated with the library renovation, the groundbreaking and Route 7 disruptions associated with the launch of the 4.3-acre Founders Row project, completion of the Mt. Daniel school renovation, acquisition of the Fellows Tract adjacent the Thomas Jefferson School, and more, this spring’s budget round is not expected to be controversial, as it has already been signalled that it is very unlikely Shields will ask for any real estate tax rate increase for the coming fiscal year.

At $1.355 per $100 assessed valuation, the City’s real estate tax rate is now far more competitive than a passing glance at the regional tax rates might suggest. In Fairfax County, for example, there are a plethora of “tax overlay districts” and added charges that pile up on property owners to bring its real rate to well over $1.40 per $100. Still, whatever pressure may be on the city manager and City Council concerning this coming year’s budget is more likely to take the form of looking to actually lower the rate by, perhaps, up to a penny.

That being said, there is much more buzz around town now about affordable and workforce housing than there has been in over a decade. Yes. if there is any extra money in the City coffers, it ought to go to fixing pressing unmet needs, and not to a tax cut, not right now. With the West End project and Founders Row projects coming in line in the next half dozen years, the tax revenues generated by them will not only pay 100 percent for the new high school, but should allow a very healthy drop in real estate taxes.

But in the meantime, the City needs to pay (in terms of dollars) far more attention to diversity-affirming housing affordability than it has to date.

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