Tuesday, December 6, 2016

GM/MEH and Budget

Last night (12/5) the City Council and School Board held a joint meeting on the GM/MEH project and the budget.

On the GM/MEH project, the need to replace or extensively renovate GM is beyond question. Last night's session focused on the what Falls Church could afford for the project. That question depends on a number of things, but the range is somewhere between $40M and $114M. The $40M is assuming Falls Church spends $30M on other capital improvements, and the City sticks to all of its current financial policies and ways of funding projects. ($40M is also too small to make a dent in our current needs, based on what I know so far.) The upper figure depends on a number of changes to current practices, including that we use 30-year bonds rather than 20-year and that we keep the payments constant, like a mortgage, rather than keep the principal payment constant, where the cost goes down over time. This also assumes some of the current school land is sold for $30M in the future.

The budget picture is just as sobering. The City's revenue growth for next year is projected to be 3%. If the schools received half that increase, about 3/4s of it is projected be eaten up by the increasing cost of retirement and health benefits, without any increases in the number of teachers to address class sizes or pay raises for teachers due to greater experience. The City is also in a bind with increasing personnel costs and WMATA charges.

Last, perhaps the only way to pay for a high-school is to start saving for it so that the tax rate need not be raised too much in the future (like saving for a down payment). Money would have to be found for that as well.

The School Board has another meeting this evening, which will include a discussion of the budget, the civility code, and a possible statement on diversity and inclusion. Please come - 7 pm at the Central Office.


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