Council Defers Final Vote on Water Rate Increase Until September

Falls Church Times Staff

July 11, 2011

Facing continued criticism from Fairfax County residents, the Falls Church City Council this evening declined to approve the second reading of a water rate increase. 

The Council adopted a motion introduced by Councilman Ira Kaylin to defer a vote on the proposed ordinance until September 12.   The motion also directs City Attorney John Foster and the City’s outside counsel to request that Fairfax Water agree that the proposed increase, if adopted, is in compliance with the final decree issued by Fairfax Circuit Court Judge R. Terrence Ney on January 6, 2010 in the case of Fairfax County Water Authority vs. City of Falls Church. 

That decree enjoined the City from transferring profits from its water system to its general fund.  It also ordered that Falls Church must comply with its Charter, which states that “water rates .  .  will result in receipts equal to expense (including any future expense of the water system).”  

The motion further directs that if an agreement is obtained, Mr. Foster then is to seek a decree from the Court resolving that the rate increase complies with the 2010 ruling.   If Fairfax Water declines to join in securing the Court’s concurrence, then the City will seek it unilaterally.  

The motion was approved, 3-2, with members Johannah Barry and Robin Gardner absent.          

Mayor Nader Baroukh and Councilman Ron Peppe voted with Mr. Kaylin to approve the motion.  The mayor and Mr. Kaylin both urged caution, given the prior litigation with Fairfax Water. 

Vice Mayor Dave Snyder and Councilman Lawrence Webb opposed the motion.  Mr. Snyder cited the pressing need to maintain the system’s infrastructure.  Mr. Webb concurred, stating that the City was only seeking to charge what it takes to run the system and that deferring action only served to delay what is inevitable.

Before the vote seven Fairfax County residents spoke against the rate increase, maintaining that it violated Judge Ney’s decree.  Some called on the City to merge its system with Fairfax Water in order to achieve greater economies of scale.  Others were visibly angry.  One called on Fairfax customers to boycot Falls Church businesses if the increase were approved.

Falls Church is proposing an 8% increase.  The City has not raised its rates since 2005.  Ninety-two percent of the system’s customers reside in Fairfax County.

CDC Task Force  –  The Council unanimously approved a resolution extending the Child Development Center Task Force’s deadline until August 8. 

City Manager’s Report  –  Mr. Shields announced that Falls Church’s recycling rate has risen from 57% of solid waste in 2009 to 60% in 2010.  The state average in 38.6.  The annual hazardous waste collection will be held Saturday, July 23.  Residents are encouraged to  

Closed Session Cancelled  –  At the end of the meeting the Council removed the session from the evening’s agenda, presumably due to the earlier decision to defer action on the water rate increase.

July 11, 2011 


2 Responses to “Council Defers Final Vote on Water Rate Increase Until September”

  1. Adrienne Whyte on July 12th, 2011 5:50 am

    I have to wonder if such a large increase would be required if previous Councils had not plundered the water fund for the City’s operating expenses. Fairfax citizens like me would not object to a small increase. This one appears intended to replenish the system’s coffers.

    I would love to see that angle analyzed and covered by the press. If it has been discussed, it has been absent from stories. If the funds had not been illegally transferred, what would be the reserve balance for capital improvements today?

  2. Mike Smith, Falls Church on July 12th, 2011 1:58 pm

    I recall about six or seven years ago the City increased the rate over 20% and no one said a thing. Now an 8% rate after six years of no increases (WAY less than the rate of inflation) is causing all this heartburn. Makes you wonder about the real agenda behind Fairfax ginning up all this trouble, doesn’t it?

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