By GEORGE BROMLEY
Falls Church Times Staff
April 23, 2012
The Falls Church City Council voted this evening to hold tax rates at their current levels. The real estate tax will remain at $1.27, the personal property tax will stay at $4.84, each rate for every $100.00 of assessed value.
Prior to the vote Vice Mayor Dave Snyder introduced a motion to reduce the tax rate to $1.26, calling the higher rate a tax increase. Snyder advocated reducing reserves and removing all proposed non public safety related positions from the budget, achieving a net estimated savings of $560,000. ”I don’t believe in holding the tax rate today artificially high to make it easier for politicians in the future to pass on taxes,” he said.
Councilman Ira Kaylin, who had seconded the motion, then spoke in opposition. ”The only thing I agree with is that the tax assessment increases are tax rate increases,” he said. Earlier Kaylin warned that the City’s finances are still fragile and projected a $1.9 million budget shortfall next year, which could result in a tax rate of $1.33.
Mayor Nader Baroukh said that to get the rate down would impact critical initiatives such as storm water management and could have consequences on the City’s borrowing capacity. “As much as I’d like to do a one time reduction in the tax rate I don’t think it would be prudent or in the long term interests of the City,” said Baroukh.
Snyder’s motion was voted down, 6-1. The Council then approved the tax rates and the FY 2013 budget, with the vice mayor dissenting. The Capital Improvements Program (CIP) for FY 2013-17 was approved, 7-0.
In a statement to the Times the mayor said that the budget and the CIP are the product of a great deal of discussion and work and meet the critical needs of the City in these
difficult financial times. “This budget and CIP strikes a healthy balance between the City’s fund balance and the needs of City employees, schools, and services. And it meets the Council’s policy objectives including strengthening economic development, providing greater resources for infrastructure improvements to address items such as school facilities and stormwater managemen,” the mayor said.
Earlier the Council voted unanimously to withdraw the controversial “Ped Plan”, deferring further action until at least June 25. Many residents spoke against the plan, particularly its proposal to eliminate street parking on Hillwood Avenue, Lincoln Avenue, and West Street.
In his report to Council, City Manager Wyatt Shields advised that representatives of six prospective bidders for the City’s water system attended an informational meeting today that included a tour of the system.
On Saturday, April 28 from 9am-2pm, the City of Falls Church will hold a Recycling Extravaganza and Prescription Drug Take-Back Day at the Recycling Center, 217 Gordon Rd.
City residents may recycle and properly dispose of many items, including electronics, cell phones, clothing, bicycles, printer cartridges, eyeglasses, medical supplies, and more. The City of Falls Church Police Department will also hold its semi-annual Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, a no-questions-asked program to help with proper disposal of prescription and over-the-counter medication.
On Saturday April 28, the Farmers Market Chef demonstration will feature Willow Restaurant’s Tracy O’Grady creating a seasonal favorite with the produce in the market. This time Tracy will be doing Asparagus Crepes with Ricotta Mousse and Sauteed Strawberries. As with all Falls Church Farmers Market Demonstrations, recipes and tasting will be available from 9am to 11am at 300 Park Avenue in Falls Church City. Recipes also can be found at http://www.fallschurchfarmersmarketchef.com/
Join the City of Falls Church Habitat Restoration Team in restoring the local ecosystem in City parks. This includes on-going removal of invasive vegetation and replanting with native species when plants are available. Saturday, April 28, 10 a.m. at Crossman Park, close to 535 N. Van Buren St.
Contact City Arborist, 703-248-5183, firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to volunteer. Info also available on the City’s website, www.fallschurchva.gov/Volunteer.
By STEPHEN SIEGEL
Falls Church Times Staff
April 23, 2012
A surprising issue has joined taxes, schools, and stormwater management in the race for the Falls Church City Council: past decisions by candidates to vote, or not vote, in local elections.
The issue arose in a comment on the Falls Church Times last week by a man named Elliot Mitchell, who identified himself as being from Arlington. Despite his ostensible Arlington location, he said he was working with a candidate for Council whom he did not identify, and noticed that some of the candidates had not always voted in local elections.
He cited Lawrence Webb and Paul Handly for having inconsistent attendance records at the polls in previous elections. Mr. Webb disputed the assertion, while Mr. Handly appears to have ignored it.
Mr. Mitchell then suggested that failing to vote in local elections is a serious shortcoming that should cause residents to avoid supporting Messrs. Webb and Handly in this year’s Council race.
“Sure, everyone misses a vote here and there,” Mr. Mitchell wrote. “We’re all busy. But it looks like Handly and Webb have chosen, for whatever reason, to NOT (sic) vote in local elections. For someone running for a local office, that’s unconscionable.”
Subsequent opinion on the comment thread was mixed. Some thought it was valuable information that the media should be digging up. Others thought it was slimy or a dirty trick, and wanted to know for whom Mr. Mitchell was working.
But no further information was posted by Mr. Mitchell. So the Times decided to investigate. We quickly learned that the computer he used to write his comment was either the very same computer, or one on the same network, as one of the candidates, because they had the exact same Internet Protocol (IP) address, which is like a street address for computers connected to the Web.
Further research showed that a man named Elliot Mitchell also works at the same organization as one of the candidates. The Times left a message on Mr. Mitchell’s office voicemail Thursday that was not returned, and tried again Friday afternoon, only to get voicemail again.
In both cases, the candidate was the same individual: John Lawrence.
After being unsuccessful reaching Mr. Mitchell, the Times called Mr. Lawrence Friday afternoon while he was out canvassing for votes door to door. Asked what he knew about Mr. Mitchell and his assertion, Mr. Lawrence said only: “I have no comment.”
He promised to speak further about it with a reporter this weekend, but failed to return the call.
That the voting data is available at all may seem somewhat surprising. But it is legally available for a fee from the Virginia State Board of Elections in certain specific circumstances.
Those eligible to buy it must fall into one of three categories: candidates for election, political party committees, and incumbent politicians. People not fitting those categories are not eligible.
The use of the information is restricted to candidates to “further their candidacy”; parties “for political purposes only”; and politicians “to report to their constituents.”
Additional information about obtaining voter histories is available through the Virginia State Board of Elections, www.sbe.virginia.gov.