City Council Passes 3-Way Split of Surplus

September 10, 2012

The Falls Church City Council approved by a 4-3 vote tonight a motion to split the City’s $2.8 million budget surplus three ways, providing money for the schools to buy new computers, giving real estate taxpayers a rebate, and using the balance to increase the City’s “fund balance.”

The motion was a victory for Council Member David Tarter, who received support from Vice Mayor David Snyder and Council Members Ron Peppe and Phil Duncan. Voting against Tarter’s proposal were Mayor Nader Baroukh and Council Members Ira Kaylin and Johannah Barry.

Tarter’s motion had failed weeks earlier on a 3-3 vote when Vice Mayor Snyder was absent. Snyder announced on his return that he would support Tarter’s proposal, providing the impetus for Tarter to raise it again at tonight’s Council session.

September 10, 2012 


37 Responses to “City Council Passes 3-Way Split of Surplus”

  1. Garrick Boyd FCC on September 11th, 2012 6:54 am

    Can someone please explain how the surplus has gone from $3.4M to $3M and now to $2.8M over the summer? Where else was the surplus spent?

  2. Nana, Falls Church on September 11th, 2012 8:02 am

    At last night’s broadcast of the FCNP. the surplus was said to be $6,000,000. What about the rest of it? And where did this all come from?

  3. TFC on September 11th, 2012 10:06 am

    Some of the “extra” surplus was due to funds that had been appropriated in last year’s budget for different items but the funds were not spent. So these funds are not really surplus, rather, they are unspent from last year’s books so must be carried over to this fiscal year. Some of the funds were unspent due to staff shortages to get the work done before June 30, some were due to an inability to get contracts in place before June 30. The City will do these things but…they are happening in this fiscal year with money set aside in last year’s budget.

  4. mel watson on September 11th, 2012 1:04 pm

    Be skeptical and hold on to whatever portion of “surplus” is returned to you as a rebate. We may get some money back but be ready to turn right around return it (along with more) to the City when the tax rate is increased again combined with a likely increase in assessments. I think it was reported that the CFO is forecasting a tax rate that will go higher than $1.30 (maybe as high as $1.34) in the next few years.

  5. Michael Baker Falls Church on September 11th, 2012 2:13 pm

    Finally the adults arrive.
    Mr. Snyder finally showed up to bring a reality check to the City Council that was doing a great imitation of the US Congress. For too long the ill-advised desires of Council members Ira Kaylin and Johannah Barry and Mayor Nader Baroukh were keeping the City and School Board hostage long after it was apparent that most of the City disagreed with them on funding the School Board’s request.
    Ask any parent with a college student, or soon to be college student, and they know all about the digital revolution that has hit the classroom. FCCPS has a duty to prepare our children not just for college, but for the world they will work in. Old and outmoded system won’t get the job done.
    Hopefully, those who hinted at “secret slush funds” or stated as fact that “the schools have all the funds already” will accept that opinions are not substantiated facts and thus will keep their ill informed opinions to themselves.

  6. FC Voter on September 11th, 2012 2:34 pm

    More Tarter sauce, please.

  7. John MacKinnon on September 11th, 2012 2:52 pm

    David Snyder. Thank you for not pulling another Clark Kent. Of course, Mayor Nader will retroactively always state he supported the schools all along, but wanted to know the real amount of the project. IMHO, Ms. Barry’s about as useful as parsley on a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast. Does she vote any way different from Mr, Kaylin?

  8. Manny Little Falls Church on September 11th, 2012 3:26 pm

    The school employees did not need to pay for their retirement into VRS – the taxpayers paid it. This year the members of VRS had to start paying the employee’s share, but the taxpayers had to give them a raise to cover the cost for their retirement contribution. Thanks Richmond! (increasing the cost for the plan and the benefit paid to the future retirees)

    Question: How much “school supplies” could be purchased if the employees paid for their own retirement?

  9. mel watson on September 11th, 2012 4:18 pm

    I view what the mayor and other council members are doing as a needed exercise. This should happen as part of any budget deliberation. Someone needs to ask the hard questions. Wake up folks – – certain council members are basically in the school system’s pocket and not going to ask the tough questions or require much justification. This sort of questioning and scrutiny is going to cause many a lot of angst because the school lobby is not used to this sort of scrutiny. This is all relatively new. I think this should continue. This sort of due diligence does not mean that someone is unfriendly to the school system or the children. Believe me, there are a lot of “gaps” in the process and I am sure some “hidden” money….you have folks who are used to getting what they want without much debate. Again, I am a graduate of the school system and appreciate its value. But if you continue down the road of not questioning certain expenses or at least asking for more justification… are going to contribute to the current financial mess.

  10. Brian Rye (Falls Church) on September 11th, 2012 4:52 pm

    Well said, Mel.

  11. City Council Passes 3-Way Split of Surplus « Community Issues Forum on September 11th, 2012 5:41 pm

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  12. Linda Neighborgall on September 11th, 2012 6:55 pm

    Amen, Mel. It would also be helpful if there were fewer specific personalized attacks on people who hold contrary views from the attackers — applies to everyone on all sides of any given argument. Lord knows the temptation is there when feelings run high and interests diverge. But really, how will we move forward on any of the city’s pressing needs if disagreement devolves into name calling and character assasination. It’s possible to discuss differences vigorously and searchingly without turning anyone into parsley and Denny’s Grand Slams – both unhealthy, literally and figuratively.

  13. mel watson on September 11th, 2012 7:29 pm

    Let me plant an early seed and I will then shut up….smile.

    When the next election rolls around we all need to vet every candidate to make sure they are willing to ask the tough questions and simply not bow to what the school lobby wants or thinks they need….those who frown when asked to justify something…like some of the current folks.who seem taken aback that someone would asked legitimate questions….that are then interpreted as anti-school. We have some “empty suits” on the council when it comes to backbone. We need to elect candidates who bring a “balanced” approach between school needs and other needs….who are looking out for not just for those in the school lobby but also those who have storm water issues, and other needs from the City, etc.

  14. jbb Falls Church City on September 12th, 2012 4:43 pm

    Thank you Mel and Linda for your comments. I agree!
    We need the Council to ask questions and get the correct data.

    Unfortunately, it appears that not enough questions were asked when City Management requested the property tax increase last year.

    Now there is a surplus. Our professional City Management made a huge mistake.

    RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY TAXES WENT UP 20%! City Management said that the tax increase was needed. And said, if City Council did not approve the increase, essential services were going to be cut.

    Teachers have their pay increase. City employees have their pay increases. The School has their new computers.
    Now is the time to help the residents who pay property taxes. Reduce the property tax rate.

  15. mel watson on September 12th, 2012 5:41 pm

    jbb – – you mention City staff. Yes, many of them are weak in asking the tough questions too. But in fairness they inherited a mess that has been bulding for years. Keep in mind the City Manager in fact recommended a penny more on the tax rate than the rate that the City Council adopted. So taxes would have been even higher. I am sure they work hard and try. But all have committed many miscues along the way. Some of them should have been replaced when the last CFO was replaced – – who seemed to be the fall guy. Personally I don’t quite understand this so called “surplus” when much of it (depending on what figures are cited) resulted when certain cutoffs for procuring services were missed for certain projects….the projects still need to get done I assume…so you basically are shifting needed money from one year to the next.

  16. Cecily Shea on September 13th, 2012 7:38 am

    The $3.4M surplus was all from excess revenue. Since the time that number became known, the City also found “savings” of $2.6M. At the Council meeting on Monday statements were made that represent $1M of it is needed for projects that hadn’t be PO’d by the end of the fiscal year. That leaves $1.6M in addition to the $3.4M as surplus. Where do those savings come from? Things like snow removal that wasn’t needed because of the mild winter.

  17. mel watson on September 13th, 2012 12:34 pm

    Would it be good if City staff posted a Q/A document of some sort so everyone can understand? I guess I wonder haven’t we had the same things occur, with less snow removal than expected for example, so why was there not a similar “surplus.” I am sure there is some good explanation. My sense is a Q/A document of some sort might make this whole thing clearly understandable to all and show some “transparency.” If such a document exists, maybe someone can advise.

  18. Fiona Apple, Falls Church on September 13th, 2012 3:31 pm

    As a real estate tax payer in the City of Falls Church, I’d rather see that money put into upkeep of the City.

    We have trees that need to be trimmed. Properly for once.
    Buildings that desperately need repainting.
    Storefront awnings that are damaged, ugly and don’t light up anymore (200 block of west broad)
    Planters that haven’t been filled in 2-3 years.
    Basic infrastructure upgrades.


    If we spend the money to beautify and better our city, won’t more businesses and shoppers come to the city and therefore reducing our real estate taxes?

  19. Concerned Falls Church on September 13th, 2012 9:16 pm

    Its about time toreduce the real estate tax … too much burden and too high compared to other NoVA locales. Dont imitate congress —be fiscally responsible and help the tax payer

  20. mel watson on September 14th, 2012 9:38 am

    Concerned Falls Church and others – – unfortuntately there is little or no chance of a reduction in the tax rate. You might have one councilman try to pull a political stunt by recommending a decrease when it is known that is not feasible. Count on the same rate, and probably a higher rate. Look at what the CFO has just predicted. Our taxes are going to go up regardless given a rise in assessments. If you live say in a $600,000 home let’s assume the rate rises by 2 cents….that is $120 more right there. If your assessment goes up $30,000 that is another $387 approximately…..for a total increase of $507 conceivably in a single year….someone can check my math.

    The fundamental reasons: 1) anemic or stagnant commerical tax base which is not going to change anytime in the near future; and 2) a school budget, which comprises a huge percentage of City expense, that is going to continue to increase. This is why it is vital to scrub the school budget, look for and close “gaps” and find “hidden” money, and ask the tough questions that many don’t want to answer.

  21. jbb Falls Church City on September 14th, 2012 3:40 pm

    My property taxes went up 20%. With the “surplus” money in the City budget, I was hoping for a reduction. I dread another increase.

    There are property owners who live here to be near DC and the Metro….not for the school system. I do not have children in the school system. But, I do understand why families with chidren want to live here. Several of my neighbors rent their homes at a premium.
    These families say the FCC School system has good teachers and all the amenities they want! It has the pre school and after school services, paid testing and credit for the IB program (great for international and Sate Dept students), paid tuition for the magnet high school if their child qualifies, and other wonderful services not offered elsewhere.

    A neighbor recently decided to sell their house. We have been told by the real estate agent that interested buyers are surprised by the listed property tax rate.

    I hope the City Manager does not propose another tax increase!

  22. jbb Falls Church City on September 14th, 2012 3:43 pm

    AND….I do hope that Councilmen Tarter and Duncan can fullfill their promises of bringing in more commercial tax income to the City.

    I thank Councilman Ira Kaylin, Mayor Baroukh and Councilwoman Barry for being diligent and asking the tough pertinent questions when it comes to spending our tax dollars.

  23. mel watson on September 14th, 2012 4:12 pm

    Jbb – – you are right if someone does not ask the tough questions that simply ask in a lot of cases for additional justification in an effort to scrub the school budget and to close some of these gaps in accounting periods, etc……in the end there will be little balance and little or no funds to take care of other pressing non-school needs that are essential just as much as the schools – – that I am sure you see the City needs. There is only so much money (without further tax increases) to go around for other needs as commented on, for example, by Ms. Apple I believe who mentioned the City’s upkeep and its appearance in some areas. The schools, maybe unfortuntately, have to continue to take a hit and suffer reduced funding along with everything else so other needs can be balanced. Don’t count on these new council members to bring about change…..they seem to be part of the school lobby for business as usual.

  24. Paul Perrot, Falls Church City on September 15th, 2012 11:41 am

    Speaking of hard questions, Dave Snyder got hammered by Johannah Barry at the recent work session with the Planning Commission for asking the tough question regarding the expensive Green Power certification that the City is considering. While I agree with Ms. Barry that Green building is a great idea, I also agree with Dave that hard questions like these need to be asked. If the City uses a competent contractor to execute Green Power guidelines, why do we need to spend extra precious dollars to certify the work? With this kind of approach, how is the City possibly going to lower costs and reduce taxes? City Staff recommended that the estimated $ 150,000.00 is not much considering the overall costs of building. Does this kind of logic lead to lower costs and lower taxes? Do we really need to spend this money in light of other pressing financial burdens? Add to this the failure of City Staff to enforce zoning codes designed to contain density and costs of services in residential areas. The consequences of such poor governance add significantly higher potential costs to the school budget at the same time we hear warnings that school budgets will need to be contained and reduced. This makes no sense whatsoever, all the more since Staff is not following the guidance of our City Code and Comprehensive Plan.

  25. johannah barry on September 17th, 2012 4:30 pm

    Mr. Perrot,

    There is a significant difference in the characteristics of the expenses and their funding in the LEED and School Division examples you mentioned. The LEED certification is part of the capital cost of a capital project and thus funded by a bond, usually 20 years. As such the annual costs are mitigated by lowering annual operating costs, particularly energy costs. Certification requires a level of professional expertise and these costs ensure that the investments made in this technology are recognized and appropriately deployed

    The technology transfer, the recent subject of much debate, is funded out of City revenues the year the laptops are purchased. Annual expenses will increase as the laptops have to be replaced. LEED certification is an expense that results in future cost saving; while the technology expenses are recurrent costs that grow over time. At issue is the funding mechanism, not the merit.

    You are quite right that careful decisions need to be made in light of the manifold pressures on limited resources. Thank you for your attention to these issues.

  26. johannah barry on September 17th, 2012 4:42 pm

    Mr. MacKinnon,

    I would certainly align myself with the comments made by Mrs. Neighborgall and others as to the role of civility in public discourse and especially appreciate her always helpful and trenchant commentary. However, I would be remiss if I did not take a moment, perhaps self serving (?) to extoll the virtues of parsley. While admittedly under-appreciated, is in fact a powerhouse of nutrients. And according to the infallible Internet, parsley is the world’s most popular herb. I happily associate myself with this excellent source of flavonoids. Here’s to your health!

  27. TFC on September 17th, 2012 7:17 pm

    Denny’s Grand Slams do have their place in life too….even if they forget the parsley.

  28. John MacKinnon on September 18th, 2012 5:34 pm

    My attacks we’re not personal in nature, Ms. Barry. They described you as a political sheep easily led by others. It’s not like I’m comparing your appearance to Sissy Spacek in the movie Carrie.

  29. Suzanne Updike on September 19th, 2012 8:56 am

    Boy, that still sounds personal to me! While I didnt agree with Ms Barry on this issue (I think it’s ok to use some of the surplus for school technology), I dont think she deserves to be called a sheep. Seems to me that she holds her own opinions, and quite firmly….

  30. Lou Mauro on September 19th, 2012 11:31 am

    Editors: please review Mr. MacKinnon’s most recent comment. I believe his “Carrie” reference crosses the line. You have deleted others that were less offensive.

  31. Garrick Boyd FCC on September 20th, 2012 12:24 am

    I don’t have a horse in this race, Ms. Barry (and I imagine it’s not true), but you have to admit “about as useful as parsley on a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast” was pretty funny. Even if you like parsley.

  32. Lou Mauro on September 20th, 2012 11:04 am

    Well, Mr. Mackinnon, it seems you have somehow passed the FCT disgusting test. Apparently they have not seen “Carrie.” So congratulations. You have earned your place as the new “Mean-spirited City Bully,” as the last one is out of action.

  33. Stan Fendley, Falls Church City on September 20th, 2012 3:38 pm

    Lou, thanks for your note, but Mrs. Barry is a public official. She has to be ready to withstand references to parsley, sheep and obscure movies. We note that others are already writing to criticize Mr. MacKinnon as too harsh. Sometimes public pushback is the best moderator.

    We urge all readers to play nice.

    Stan Fendley

  34. Linda Neighborgall on September 20th, 2012 6:22 pm

    Fortunately for Johanna Barry, parsley goes very well with lamb.

  35. Dennis Szymanski, Falls Church on September 20th, 2012 9:42 pm

    Stan, “obscure movie”? Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, this horror classic shows how Carrie used her telekinetic powers to exact revenge on those who teased her.

  36. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on September 21st, 2012 10:05 am

    Maybe this could be a new feature of the FCT – user submitted reviews of obscure movies based on popular novels?

  37. Paul Perrot, Falls Church on September 21st, 2012 9:06 pm

    Ms. Barry,
    The school expense to which you refer is not the same. The issue I raised is another matter altogether. Specifically, by allowing the separation of combined substandard lots, the City has endorsed a policy that disregards Zoning Codes designed to control density and to contain the cost of services in our residential areas. Obviously, the cost of services is higher for two houses than for one, especially since single family dwellings typically draw families with school-age children. Property taxes generated from most homes in the City do not cover the annual costs for even one seat in our schools. So this policy – which also appears to be illegal – increases the financial burdens on our schools while at the same time, according to recent remarks by you and Mr. Kaylin, the School Budget may have to be limited to this year’s amount or even reduced in the years ahead. It makes no sense to increase a financial obligation that we can’t pay for, especially when the reason for doing so is contrary to the letter of the law as defined by the City’s Comprehensive Plan and the Code written to enforce it. Frankly, I’m not impressed by assertions of City Staff on this issue. The argument that such long standing misinterpretation holds any weight at all is totally ridiculous.

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