Tysons, VA

In a work session discussion yesterday, the Falls Church City Council considered a new distribution of funds in the FY 2021 budget to help cover issues ranging from COVID response to stormwater management.

One of the most immediate concerns presented in the budget discussion was the appropriation of $547,000 from CARES Act funding allocated to the city to help address crises in the city. The lion’s share of the funding, $250,000, was set to be allocated as small business grants, followed by $150,000 in emergency assistance to residents to help cover rental, utility and food assistance.

The City Council also considered funding for six stormwater management projects planned to help prevent some of the flooding issues that have devastated homes in the area over the last few years. There was some concern on the council, however, that without proper consideration the funding could just be flushing money down the drain.

Ross Litkenhous, a Falls Church City Council member, emphasized that he was in favor of dedicating funding to fixing flooding problems, but was concerned that the proposed projects were temporary fixes that would do little to address longer-term problems.

“I refuse to go down a path where we’re only solving for half the problem,” Litkenhous said.

Others on the Council urged to move forward with planning for stormwater management, though with general fund rather than issuance of debt.

Amid the discussion of spending, Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly suggested that some funding be set aside in reserve. While the city is facing a fiscal catastrophe, experts warn the region could face difficult years ahead where they might need to tap into a cash reserve.

“Next year’s budget is going to be a big challenge,” Connelly warned.

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While many organizations facing budget constraints have eliminated staff during the coronavirus pandemic, a local program had a diametric response — increasing their staff to care for residents who are displaced from work.

Tysons-based Langley Residential Support Services is a program that serves adults with developmental disabilities as well as their families and communities through residential and community support services. The program has six homes that offer both intensive and supportive assistance.

Many nonprofits and organizations eliminated staff since the pandemic hit to save money. However, since Langely Residential residents aren’t at work during the day, the site needed more staff to care for the extra number of residents. 

“It’s really tapped out our budget,” said Betsy Schatz, the executive director of Langley Residential. “We have somewhat of a reserve. We’ve been very frugal in our approach to spending during this time since we don’t know how long this is going to affect us.”

An increase in staff isn’t the only change Langley Residential has seen. They have also had to adapt to government guidelines to ensure safety during the pandemic. Masks and hand sanitizer have been provided to whoever requests them, from residents to staff. 

“The safer they are, the safer we are,” said Schatz. 

The facility has limited family visits, allowing families to come to the house and take their loved one outside, but they must wear masks and keep 6 feet away from each other. They are also taking residents’ temperatures frequently. Residents were also given iPads to FaceTime with their families. 

“It’s nice to see that people can finally visit with parents and maintain that closer relationship that is so important to them,” said Schatz. 

When the pandemic first hit, Schatz recounted a struggle to maintain adequate supplies on hand. One of the biggest worries was whether they would have enough medical supplies to keep the environment safe for residents. However, now they’re fully stocked up and working with a medical supply company in Springfield.

To keep residents active, Langley Residential has purchased a variety of games including outdoor putting, Connect Four and different arts and crafts. The facility was initially planning a bowling tournament for the residents, but due to the pandemic, it was canceled.

However, they are planning on holding a formal event in the fall that includes wine tasting and a silent auction. Whether the event comes to fruition depends on what phase of reopening Virginia is in, said Schatz. 

Schatz emphasized that the residents have been doing extremely well with the changes in lifestyle. While the pandemic hit them “out of the blue,” staff and residents have adapted and seem to be upholding the values of the facility and maintaining a feeling of home. 

“Our approach is to serve people as long as we can meet their needs. We want people to age in place, we want to make sure that people know that this is their home, not just a facility that they live in,” said Schatz.

Photo by Ava Green

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The Vienna Town Council has a full agenda — from the upcoming budget to solar panels to public parking for Patrick Henry Library’s renovation — for tonight’s meeting.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the items the officials will consider.

Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Budget, Tax Rate

The Vienna Town Council will consider adopting the proposed $41 million budget and real estate tax rate of $0.2250 per $100 of assessed value for FY 2020-2021.

The town staff and officials revised the budget due to challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, expecting lower revenues and “a return to more normal circumstances by Dec. 31,” according to town documents.

The changes included decreasing the General Fund by $2.5 million.

Parking at Patrick Henry Library

The councilmembers are set to vote on a design and construction agreement with Fairfax County for the public parking included in Patrick Henry Library’s renovation.

In the agreement, the town would contribute funds for the design and construction of the parking spaces with options to terminate the agreement if the town decides to not move forward with the parking spaces.

More from the town documents:

The design costs for the Town are now capped at the lesser of 30% of the total design costs or $850,000, as compared to draft agreement with the lesser of 35% of the total design costs or $1,000,000. The construction costs for the Town are now capped at the lesser of 19% of the total construction costs or $4,200,000, as compared to the draft agreement with the lesser of 25% of the total construction costs or $4,500,000.

The Town has included funds for the design phase of this project in the 2020 CIP. The intention is to fund the construction phase of the project, at least in part, with transportation grants related to commuter parking. The Town currently is in the process of applying for grants.

The county’s Board of Supervisors also needs to vote on the agreement.

Solar Panel Push

Vienna officials will decide whether or not to approve offering Solarize NOVA this year.

The program, which informs residents and businesses on how to purchase solar energy, first arrived in the town in 2015 and is run by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission and the nonprofit Local Energy Alliance Program, according to town documents.

“Since 2015, 29 Solarize contracts have been signed in Vienna for over 230 kW of power. Vienna is the highest zip code for solar kW within the Solarize NOVA campaign,” according to the documents.

The dates for the program are still being finalized, but people can expect the campaign to run from June to September.

COVID-19 Challenges

Vienna officials will also consider re-adopting an emergency ordinance that makes it easier for businesses to use outdoor space.

The ordinance lets Town Manager Mercury Payton allow temporary waivers of zoning regulations to businesses so that they can operate outside.

“Under normal circumstances, business owners would be required to pursue a formal process-delaying their ability to reopen and impeding support for [the] revitalization of the local economy in Vienna,” according to town documents.

The meeting is set to start at 8 p.m.

Image via Town of Vienna

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Budget Public Hearings Start Today — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors starts its public hearings on the proposed fiscal year 2021 budget today. [Fairfax County]

How Vienna Candidates Campaign in COVID-19 Crisis — “Candidates told the Sun Gazette they miss door-to-door campaigning, but are reaching out to voters through social media. The election’s date, which had remained a moving target until late last week, complicated matters further, they said.” [Inside NoVa]

Gov. Northam Says Child Vaccines Declining — “Due to COVID-19, the state is starting to see a decline in immunizations, Northam said, as parents decide not to take their children to the pediatrician for their vaccines.” [Inside NoVa]

Virginia Scores Poorly for Social Distancing — “Virginia has scored a D- while the City of Falls Church has received an overall social distancing grade of C+ based on community activity using metrics comparing current mobility data to that before the Covid-19 outbreak. The assessments come from data company Unacast.” [Falls Church News-Press]

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Gov. Northam Makes Testing Work Group — “The group will “make sure all of Virginia’s public and private testing efforts are coordinated and pulling in the same direction,” Northam said during a Monday press conference.” [Inside NoVa]

Local Student Looks to Celebrate the Class of 2020 — “After Loudoun County seniors Arianna Wright and Aiden Bullis came up with the idea to sell class of 2020 signs and distributed 1,000, Abby Diamond wanted the same concept in Fairfax County. The Madison High School senior has started to sell signs reading ‘Class of 2020 senior #allinthistogether’ in support of the 2020 graduates. So far, she’s sold about 100 and has reached various high schools.” [Patch]

ICYMI: Foust’s Budget Meeting is Tonight — “Foust is set to talk to Fairfax County Chief Financial Officer Joe Mondoro about the budget, and answer people’s questions, according to his recent newsletter to constituents. The town hall is set to start at 7 p.m. [on Tuesday.]” [Tysons Reporter]

Distance Learning Challenges Plague FCPS — “School officials say that updates made by Blackboard over the weekend have not corrected delays with the system… The Fairfax County School Board is expected to receive an update on the rollout of distance learning on Thursday (April 23).” [Reston Now]

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The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve scoured the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Though many in-person events are canceled, organizations and businesses are setting up digital events to keep people occupied.

Tuesday (April 21)

  • Free Mecial Traning The American Red Cross in McLean is putting together digital training for people who want to learn about adult and pediatric first aid, CPR, lifeguarding and more at 9 a.m. This training is free but participants must sign up online.
  • Online Budget Town Hall — Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust will host a digital budget town hall from 7-8:30 p.m. People can submit questions by calling 703-324-1114, post them in a comment under the Facebook Live event or email them in advance. The town hall will also be shown on Channel 16 and be streamed online.
  • Virtual Trivia at Lost Dog Cafe The cafe is hosting free trivia for community members starting at 7 p.m., streamed live from the location in McLean. This event is free and prizes will be mailed to winners, the event page said. People who want to support the eatery can order from the location’s menu and can use the code “delivery” for free delivery.

Thursday (April 23)

Friday (April 24)

  • Mother Goose Minutes Every Friday, the Mary Riley Styles Public Library will post a story time and music video for kids featuring Miss Laura starting at 10:30 a.m., the post said. Anyone who wants to check out the rhymes beforehand can find them online. The videos can be found on the library’s website after they are posted.
  • Friday Art Focus — The Mary Riley Styles Public Library is hosting a free Facebook Live event at 3 p.m. with local artist and illustrator Samantha Fiddy. She will be recreating drawings sent in by viewers beforehand. Anyone interested in participating can tune in or submit work to be recreated to [email protected] People can follow the library’s Facebook post for a link closer to the event.

Saturday (April 25)

  • Virtual Independent Bookstore Day Bards Alley Bookshop in Vienna is planning a virtual day of activities and guests from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., according to its Facebook page. Details have not been announced yet but people can check the store’s social media accounts for details. People can order books online for curbside pick-up (110 Church Street NW).

Photo via Bards Alley Bookshop/ Facebook

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Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust plans to host a virtual town hall tomorrow (Tuesday) to discuss the revised budget proposal for Fairfax County.

Fairfax County staff revisited the proposed budget for fiscal year 2021 and made changes to address the economic uncertainty and upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, Foust is set to talk to Fairfax County Chief Financial Officer Joe Mondoro about the budget, and answer people’s questions, according to his recent newsletter to constituents.

The town hall is set to start at 7 p.m. tomorrow and will last until 8:30 p.m.

People can can submit questions by calling 703-324-1114, post them in a comment under the Facebook Live event or email them in advance to [email protected] and include “Dranesville District Budget Town Hall” in the subject line.

The town hall will also be shown on Channel 16 and be streamed online.

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Delays are expected for the rollout of the Fairfax County Police Department’s body-worn camera program.

In late 2019, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved $4 million to begin implementation of the program.

But now in Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill’s revised budget for fiscal year 2021, the county plans to push back funding for 338 cameras for the Sully, McLean and West Springfield Stations in the second year of the program.

The county is also revisiting funding plans for 456 cameras for the third year of the program at the Fair Oaks, Franconia and South County district stations.

The proposed budget — which was scaled back considerably in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — maintains an increase of $1.77 million to support the first full year of the program.

Funding is expected to remain for 416 cameras that will be issued to the Reston, Mason and Mt. Vernon police stations, according to county budget documents.

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As the coronavirus pandemic creates turmoil for the fiscal year 2021 budget considerations, Fairfax County Public Schools aims to mirror Fairfax County’s budget revision approach.

The Fairfax County School Board tackled changes to the FCPS budget during its meeting yesterday.

Marty Smith, the chief operating officer for FCPS, shared in a presentation that Superintendent Scott Brabrand is looking to mirror the reduction strategy being used for the county’s budget.

The presentation also noted that FCPS aims to maintain its existing staff, but will defer compensation increases to fiscal year 2022. Amendments and new strategic investments will also be pushed.

Extended Pay For Some Substitute Teachers

The school board also unanimously approved a motion that continues pay for part-time, temporary, hourly employees through April 24.

The motion applies to long-term substitute and does not include short-term substitute teachers.

The school board will reconsider pay for those employees when the superintendent provides more information to the board for the meeting on April 16.

At that upcoming meeting, the board will decide pay for the remainder of the school year.

“To Be Determined”

While FCPS is expecting several one time savings, many of the costs associated with the pandemic are still unknown.

So far, all of the financial amounts for categories, like social emotional supports and a COVID-19 second wave contingency plan, listed in FCPS’s “Post COVID-19 Response Plan” are “TBD,” according to the presentation.

Financial impacts related to unemployment and paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Act are also unknown at this time.

FCPS may also face another, yet-to-be-determined impact: more students.

Brabrand said during the meeting that FCPS must prepare for a possible influx of students.

“It’s a job creation area and we have families in private school who may be financially impacted,” he said.

Image via FCPS/YouTube

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Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn is hoping that more resources get allocated to small businesses as Fairfax County officials discuss the revised fiscal year 2021 budget.

Alcorn held a media call this morning (April 9) to discuss dramatic cuts and changes to the changed budget proposal, following a digital public hearing he held last night with residents.

“I’m not happy about the updated budget but it does reflect the reality we’re in right now,” Alcorn said during the media call.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill to revise suggestions for the upcoming budget, which were integrated into a draft and publishedon Tuesday (April 7).

Many of the changes include halting the expansion of new projects — focusing instead to retain projects already in progress, according to  Alcorn.

“We are going to see some delays on some of our affordable housing projects,” Alcorn said, “It’s disappointing to me because doing more on affordable housing will help the same folks who are being impacted by the Covid emergency… These are some of the same folks who have been laid off.”

Other programs that will likely be delayed are the implementation of body cameras for police officers and a freeze in salary for Fairfax County employees.

“It really is an attempt to put the breaks on anything new,” he said.

Alcorn said he also wants to see relief programs for small businesses in Fairfax County, which may happen.

Next Tuesday, the Board of supervisors will discuss a micro-loan program for local business owners impacted by the pandemic, Alcorn said.

The Budget Committee spoke last week about the potential for the program to offer up roughly $1 million for small businesses, but Alcorn suggested this number was meant to be a “place holder” until there was an opportunity for further discussion.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is set to vote on the final adjusted budget during the May 12 meeting, which was later than previously suggested in Fairfax County documents.

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