1. I agree with Mark. For a project this size, you would think that there would be detailed analysis and stress testing to be sure we have all contingencies covered.

    Why hasn’t the city done this type of analysis?

  2. So the city has not done the necessary investigation? Surprise, surprise. After the Mt. Daniel fiasco, I would expect the City Council and School Board would be extremely careful with identifying and mitigating risk.

    From what I have seen here and on the “official” links from the school and city, I am very worried that they haven’t done their homework.

    Voters, I would urge you to read what the city has done and what they haven’t done and be wise to the fact that your risks are not covered. This usually equates to higher taxes.

  3. “Thus there is a risk that future councils, which have the ultimate taxing power, could put the City in a situation where not only the general government is in financial trouble, but that such problems cou1d affect the School Board’s operations.”

    Basically, the annual contributions from the state to offset school expenditures would go towards paying the bond – teachers. Teachers are more important then buildings.

  4. Originally, I was for the referendum. I know we need some updates to the current GMHS and I saw that the repairs would be expensive. However, the more I read about the risks, the less comfortable I felt about all that money being borrowed. I wish the City would have given us cheaper options to consider. Something that is more affordable for the amount of people that live in this small area.

    1. Couldn’t the city have crafted the referendum in a fashion where voters could have voted for a choice amongst a range of amounts? Or wad there a statutory impediment? It got set up as $120 million or nothing.

      1. Dale, some city council members will say that the referendum just authorizes them to spend up to $120 million and they don’t have to spend all of it. I think this statement is misleading because if the bond is approved (and I hope Falls Church City reads all the risks and consequences and votes NO) the plan is to move forward with a $120 Million school plan.

        1. Absolutely, BB. If this referendum passes in my opinion there is no chance that less than $120 million will be spent. This group has been determined to sell to the public that need for a $120 million from the get go, when Dr. Jones first advocated it, rather than look more at what is affordable with less risk. Unfortunately, many casual observers will believe what this group of officials say.

          1. I agree with you, Dale. Because they chose just one number for the referendum in stead of more options, I see such ugly and divisive conversations if you are against the referendum. People like myself are using initials instead of our real names because our fellow citizens will ridicule us or think we are anti school. I have kids in the system and would be able to take advantage of a new high school but it simply is too much and I don’t think we can afford it.

        2. That’s too bad. You can care about schools and also care about what is affordable, and not be labeled anti-school. I am no newcomer to all of this. I have lived in the city for 50 years or so, attended and graduated from the city school system, as did my children. I value the schools but I also care strongly about affordability and risk especially for those who are on fixed or slowly rising incomes.

  5. I forgot that a majority of the City Council ignored the City Manager’s and Planning Commission’s recommendation for a smaller referendum. Hold them firmly accountable going forward should the referendum pass and their are issues. Question them every step of the way. Ms Connelly who is up for reelection this year was a yes vote from the get go and probably would favor more than $120 million. Mr. Snyder who is also up for reelection also voted yes and seemed to throw up his hands and say let the voters decide. Mr. Duncan seems to have been a definite yes given his relentless defense of the full referendum. Me. Hardi voted for the smaller referendum and wrote on her blog her major concerns with the full referendum only to flip and vote for it.

  6. Mark: Thank you so much for all of this work! Wow! I hope everyone appreciates this heavy lift here. So I am still working through this information but I have a question to anyone who can answer it.

    So I went to the link that was titled City’s response to my request for all the risk assessment and risk modeling plans. On that list I chose the July 10th Council meeting. So here is my question: Why are the proffers on this 10 acres site as low as $3 million ($300 K per acre.) That seems low to me. Can anyone explain? I would want more is what I am thinking.

    1. This was the amounts from Tinner Hill:
      $1,577,310 schools;
      14 ADUs;
      $1.2 million utility undergrounding;

      Tinner Hill is developed on 2.19 acres

      You raise a good point, however, the impact of 1000 new apartments to our school system means capital costs for all schools – expanding TJ, figuring out what to do when Mt D. is filled, GMHS and MEH.

      I would suggest that they build condos and or office space – both provide higher returns on taxes and are less likely to introduce many new kids into the system.

      1. So thank you Lyn so it seems to me that the proffers seem very low. Am I missing something? I would certainly push for more. $3 million on 8-10 acres seems low.

        1. No you are not missing anything. It is low if you look at it on a per acre basis.

          I would prefer nothing on that land – keep our green space, keep the ability to expand our recreation areas, add more fields for kids soccer and parks, and at the same time reduce congestion, automobile traffic, noise, light and air pollution, etc. However, if there is a decision to build, do not provide a special exemption on any of our commercial land for apartments.

  7. Acknowledging that this is anecdotal, I am currently trying to sell my house in FCC, and our realtor has told us that two separate interested buyers have opted to purchase homes in Arlington instead of FCC because the property tax rate is significantly higher here.

    1. Hi Melissa, It is stressful selling a house and I have no doubt that taxes play a large role in the decision factor: what people can afford and if the premium is worth the extra expense. Most people will find comparable homes in neighboring jurisdictions and the schools are just as good or even better.

      Falls Church City taxes are 30% higher and could go up much more now that City Council approved a Full CIP. The only way the market mitigates the higher taxes is usually by decreasing home prices so a new buyer’s Payment, Interest and Taxes is comparable to similar houses across the city line. This is unfortunate for you and all future home sellers and I would beg City Council and the School Board to cut expenses now to preserve our home values.

  8. Has anyone seen any substantiation to the option chart that lists the costs for those options other than a single number for the cost of each option. It is my understanding that all the other choices were rejected after careful consideration which for me would mean more detail than one simple number. Folks are asking me about these options and about the detail that was considered. I asked for this information in my public comment to the school board on September 12th. If anyone has that data I would appreciate it.

  9. You should be able to write to the School Board and ask for the data from Perkins Eastman. I noticed that they didn’t give a lot of detail on the options and/or the “winner” of the designs. It is a pretty brochure but not much detail.

  10. Obviously the tax rate will increase whether there is no risk or not to this $120M bond. We probably can accept the reality over the next 5 or 10 years of some increase in taxation just because that’s life. But, it appears to me the ADDED risk of up to 18 cents for just bond debt service can have very bad consequences for our future. No one has even discussed the general economy over this period….if federal government contracts, for example, local commercial revenues will go down and so will our local tax revenues.

    I sat with my financial advisor recently about all this stuff. The bank’s modeling expert joined in the meeting and showed me 3 likely outcomes on tax rate if FCC goes forward with this bond. The tax rates were based on year 2022…about 5 years out. Lowest tax rate was $1.61; most likely tax rate $1.79: highest was $2.07. The modeling expert is one of the best and well respected on Wall Street.

    These numbers could take my taxes from a current cost of about $13,500 to as high as about $22,000. He reminded me that his modeling assumed no significant negative impact to the region’s local economy. He would not predict what tax rate increases would do to home values but he did say that at the very least it would take much longer to sell a home in FCC even in a decent market. The competition with nearby jurisdictions would weigh heavily. He also added that school systems in FFX County and Arlington would probably offer higher compensation to newer teachers then FCC…and probably better increases to existing teachers. I think this means our school system will not be able to maintain its current reputation as #1.

    I am near 60. In 2022 I will be 65 and nearing retirement. This tax increase at age 65 could cost me an additional $100,000 in tax burden between age 65 and age 75…10 years. To generate that extra $100k either I squirrel away at least $10k to my savings each year for at least 5 years and hope for good returns OR change the risk profile on my investment strategy.

    I am one of the lucky ones and in all models and profiles, I can afford to stay here and remain comfortable. My illustration is not about me per se…it is more about the dramatic CHANGE a $120M bond can have on any citizen residing here in FCC.

    But, the question for ME comes down to this…

    Why should I absorb this cost when jurisdictions around me offer excellent schools too? When a community overwhelmingly ignores risk especially to those who are less fortunate then you, it is the epitome of selfishness in my opinion. Too many risks. Too many unintended consequences. Too much burden on citizens who already struggle… And, too less diversity in community population as minorities will NEVER be able to afford residence in FCC.

    That is not a community. That is a select few living in a gated compound.

    If the bond is approved, we will sell and leave.

    1. Your above analysis is excellent – – one of the best I have read. I urge you to seek publication in other outlets to get expanded coverage.

      I am much in the same situation and I know many others are too, and can relate to and agree with your points.

      Well done.

      1. Thanks Dale. I heard that about 1 out of 4 households in the City ha e school children. I never was able to get an accurate count. Any idea?

  11. The school board chairman or school superintendent I would think could confirm that. Folks in this forum, such as Alison Kutchma, who have done a lot of digging into data, might know.

    I heard one candidate say that the city should consider establishing special tax districts within the city. In other words, if you have children in the system, your taxes would be more as a user….given the increasing taxes largely to support the school system. If you have children who have graduated from the system or if you don’t have children or have never had children in the system then you would pay less in tax. Any thoughts?

    Always remember the Vice Mayor’s (who works for the school superintendent) own words…..”it is leap of faith.”

    1. Taxation is complicated. I do not think it would pass the courts to be honest.

      1. Understood.

        Would you, as a voter, have liked to see more than one option to vote for on November 7th rather than an up or down – all or nothing – $120 million?

        1. Yes! I wish they would have given us multiple thresholds.

  12. Was there a legal impediment of some sort which prevented different thresholds being presented to voters? After all and correct me if I am wrong, but both the city manager and a majority of the planning commission were in favor of a lesser amount. Given that and if there was not a legal impediment, why not put more dollar threshold options in front of voters?

  13. Dale, perhaps they need to be very concise with the language? I went to a few City Council meetings where they discussed each and every word in the referendum and maybe they thought too many choices would not be clear to the citizens, but I just don’t know. That would be a good question for the City Attorney: 703.248.5010 or

    Would you mind calling and getting an answer then sharing?

  14. For what’s worth…too late now so a moot point….legal reports there was no legal impediment to offering voters with threshold options to consider and vote on.

    1. Thank you for getting the information. It may be a moot point but perhaps we can learn from this and offer threshold options for any future projects. I really appreciate this.

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