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Falls Church City Council approves tax rate reduction of more than three cents

(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) The Falls Church City Council approved a real estate tax rate reduction on Monday (April 26) in what councilmembers called a testament to the hard work and planning of the city staff — especially amid a pandemic that devastated the national economy.

Overall, the three-and-a-half-cent tax rate decrease comes despite a 2.3% growth in the city’s operating budget, which totals $41.3 million.

“The adopted budget includes a real estate tax of $1.32 for every $100 of assessed value, which is a decrease of $0.035 from the previous year,” the city said in a press release. “The general government operating budget is approved at $41.3 million, which is 2.3 percent growth over the previous year.”

The Falls Church City Public Schools budget was fully funded at $43.9 million — a 2.5% growth over the previous year.

“The last time we even contemplated lowering the tax rate was 2005,” City Councilmember Letty Hardi said. “It’s a pretty remarkable achievement.”

The city says the tax rate decrease was made possible through a combination of eliminating a contingency fund, cutting $340,000 in capital projects, and using $460,000 in funding from the Founder’s Row development as a downpayment on the city’s high school construction debt.

The city said the reasoning behind the capital project cuts is that many are expected to be eligible for federal grant funding starting next year.

It’s not all good news on the bill front, though. The stormwater utility rate is increasing by 2% — an average $5 increase for the average homeowner:

The Council also set a new stormwater utility billing rate of $18.72 per 200 square feet of impervious surface, an increase of 2 percent from the current rate. The increase would result in an approximate $5 increase for the average homeowner. The stormwater utility rate increase is needed to address increased investment in repairs and maintenance of the system. The Stormwater Task Force, convened by City Council in 2019, identified six major flood mitigation projects, which are in final engineering now. A financing plan to pay for these major projects will be finalized in the coming year.

Other items of note in the budget include $100,000 for the Affordable Housing Fund and body-worn cameras for police officers.

“The City Council understands that this has been a difficult year for a lot of people, including our taxpayers,” Mayor David Tarter said. “I am happy that we were able to lower our tax rate and ease the burden on our residents while maintaining our schools and critical City services. We are grateful to our community for helping us get through challenging time.”

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