City Council Votes to Deny Water System Refund Claims
By GEORGE BROMLEY
Falls Church Times Staff
May 23, 2011
The Falls Church City Council voted unanimously this evening to deny all claims for refunds received from water system customers for alleged overcharges.
“For the City to make any payment of public funds to to a private party outside the bounds of established law and precedent would be irresponsible,” said Vice Mayor Dave Snyder. “The City has viable legitimate legal defenses to the claims of customers seeking refunds. It is the Council”s responsibliity to protect the City’s financial interests on behalf of its water utility rate payers and the taxpayers of the City, and this motion does that.”
The vice mayor stated that after discussing the matter with the city attorney and outside counsel, the Council has concluded that there are important issues involved that have not been addressed by the courts which have important implications for the financial management of the City and for public service utilities state-wide.
Snyder said that the refund requests stem from an incorrect reading of a January 2010 Fairfax Circuit Court ruling in the case of Fairfax County Water Authority vs. City of Falls Church. The ruling enjoined the City from transferring funds from its water fund to its general fund for purposes unrelated to its water system, including the management fee transfer for FY 09 and 10. However, that ruling did not call for refunds.
“The City disagrees with the ruling as it runs counter to the City Charter as adopted by the General Assembly and to established practice across the state,” said Snyder. “Nevertheless the City has complied with the ruling in all respects and remains in full compliance today.”
“Never assume anything other than that we put the highest priority on providing safe and reliable water to our customers on an equal basis, whether in the City or in the County,” concluded Snyder.
No other members commented on the motion, which was introduced by Councilman Ira Kaylin and seconded by Lawrence Webb. Following the vice mayor’s statement, the Council voted to approve, 6-0, with Councilman Ron Peppe absent.
Currently, there are several cases pending in court where plaintiffs have requested refunds of water utility charges from Falls Church. The City also has received letters from customers seeking refunds. In addition to Falls Church City, the water system serves a wide area of Fairfax County. Ninety-two percent of its customers are County residents.
By George Bromley
May 23, 2011