09022014Headline:

The $2.8 Million Surplus That Never Existed

Report Designed to Confuse Citizens and Sow Distrust of  Staff?

sm_budget

An Agenda or Inept Reporting?

By Council Member Ira Kaylin

The Falls Church News Press reported that revenue generated in fiscal year 2013 was $2.8 million greater than originally projected.  After subtracting expenditures net operating revenue in excess of projections was actually $2.2 million.   The remainder of the article claiming that the amount was a “surplus” and that raising the real estate tax rate from $1.27 to $1.30½ cent increase was entirely unnecessary–is totally erroneous.

Claiming that the City tax increase was not necessary is not only factually incorrect but unnecessarily damages citizen confidence in its government.

The $2.2 million surplus was used to cover capital expenditures and included over a $1 million in restricted grants and encumbrances that are targeted for specific capital expenses; $900,000 that was used to cover storm water fees, and about $600,000 for capital “pay go” expenses.

Fiscally Skinny: Dip into the Reserve

In fact not only did we not run a surplus but we had a “deficit” of over $300,000 which was covered by reducing our Fund Balance.

Accordingly, there are two seminal issues: 1) the technical errors fabricated by the FCNP which need to be explained, and 2) the propaganda like effort to cast the City’s financial management as inept and bad intentioned.  In other words the article appears to be an effort to sow popular distrust for purposes particular to the FCNP.

Please bear with me, the detailed factual explanation that follows is not easy to follow:

For some municipalities, including Falls Church, there are really two tax rates for one fiscal year.  Here is where the FCNP went off the rails.

Here is how it works:

  • In February 2013 new real estate tax assessments were calculated.
  • In April of 2013 the City Council approves the FY 2014 budget.  The budget year begins in July 1, 2014.
  • In June of 2013 the first tax payment for fiscal year 2014 is collected.  That payment included, among other things, revenues generated by the real estate tax rate increase (which incorporated changes in real estate assessments). The increase amounted to $1.7 million of the approximately $2.2 in net operating surplus.
  • Thus during the twelve month period in FY 2013, June  to June, there are two different  real estate tax rates.  The second June billing includes revenues explicitly intended to be used in the following fiscal year.
  • Unless the year on year budgets are projected to be the same the June billing has to generate a surplus if a budget increase is expected.  We knew that the FY 14 budget would have to grow to cover over 3% for City expenses and the 14% increase in school costs. Thus the 3 ½ cent tax increase was needed.
  • Nonetheless the increase in revenues is reported as a 2013 event because the tax was collected in FY 2013.
  • This convoluted and difficult to understand approach was designed years ago and permitted by the state of Virginia to allow municipalities to claim that they had balanced budgets when in fact it was an accounting gimmick. In other words it was designed to hide the actual fiscal situation of a municipality.
  • The budget surplus reported in the FCNP lasted one day, from June 31, 2013 (FY 2013) to July 1, 2013 (FY 2014).

An example may help to explain it:  Let’s say that our salaries are paid the last day of the month but our mortgage payments are required the next day; that is the first day of the next month. If we only looked our checking account balance as of the last day of the month our balance might look quite robust.  However one day later our checking account might look much more constrained.  Thus we know we have to have a substantial balance to cover necessary upcoming expenses.

This is analogous to the budget situation in the City.

Going Up the Down Staircase

The bottom line is this: the FCNP report is backwards, either unintentionally or intentionally.  Not only did the City not run a surplus it ran a “deficit”.

Claiming that the City tax increase was not necessary is not only factually incorrect but unnecessarily damages citizen confidence in its government.

Ira Kaylin is currently a member of the City Council and, among other responsibilities is the Chair person for the Economic Development Committee, is a member of the City’s Budget and Finance Committee and is the Council’s representative to the the City’s Retirement Board.

Mr. Kaylin was the Chief Financial Risk Officer for the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) in charge of Asset/Liability Management, Financial Planning and Financial Policy   Currently he is a member of the IDB’s Pension Investment Committee which is responsible for asset selection and monitoring of the IDB’s Retirement and Post Retirement Fund which is currently valued at $5.7 billion.

 

 

33 Responses to "The $2.8 Million Surplus That Never Existed"

  1. Brian Williams says:

    Thanks for taking the time to explain this, Ira. It’s frustrating that this issue is so hard to explain / understand given how (appropriately) passionate people are about taxes. As with all of the City government issues, having the trust of the community is very important and that requires good communication.

    To help me (and hopefully others) better understand a part of this, I have some questions about how the City’s target fund balance level is set and monitored:

    1. Is it accurate that City policy is for the fund balance to be in the range of 12-17% of annual expenses?
    2. If so, do you (and Mr. LaCondre) agree that that’s the right range, or should it be higher?
    3. Either way, is it accurate to state we’re currently at 21%, or is that number only accurate for the brief period you’re describing between income coming in and expenses going out?
    4. As the City Council and staff keep an eye on our fund balance, how do we ensure that we’re looking at the most accurate number, given the variations you’re describing?

    Thanks.

    • Ira Kaylin says:

      Hi Brian,

      Thank you for your email and your thoughtful questions.

      Point 1): The City’s Policy is to have a General Fund between 12%-17%. If we encounter emergencies and the Fund Balance falls below 17% we are expected to immediately develop a plan that takes us back to 17%. If we fall below 12% we would be expected to take more drastic actions including, but not limited to, significant (perhaps draconian) reductions in City side expenditures.

      Point 2): Not surprisingly I really can’t speak for Richard. For my side I think our Fund Balance objective of 17% is on the low side. Prudent financial management states that the best method to protect investment capital is to diversify those investments. The same goes for the City’s revenue streams. On the other hand we are very, and increasingly, concentrated in real estate taxes and subject to serious revenue volatility if assessments decline/appreciate sharply.

      However the City has not been able to diversify its revenue streams. Thus prudent management suggests a higher level of capital/General Fund. As our debt increases over the next few years the more we will be experience increased risk exposure to real estate market volatility. I do not believe the City is adequately protected.

      Point 3): The General Fund is expected decline to below 21% over the year but, by definition we can’t anticipate what emergencies will occur so the years end number in unknown. However, we can expect that next year’s budget will have to factor in the 6.3% increase in school enrollment. If a significant budget expenditure increase is required (as I expect) there is no space in the General Fund to absorb those increases so either we are back to tax increases or possibly draconian expenditure cuts on the City side.

      Point 4): The best way to address budget volatility is to undertake genuine multi-year budgeting process instead of our year by year focus. For example the FY 12 surplus distribution (including the tax credit) was, in my opinion, a very poor decision. If we had not made the distribution the tax rate today would be closer to 1.25 to 1.26 cents rather than the current 1.305 cents

  2. Bill says:

    So was last year’s surplus a budget “gimick”? If so, should we of not given the schools that technology upgrade?

    • Jim Link says:

      Kind of calls a lot of things into question, right? Mostly though with the NP sowing the seeds of confusion it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction.

    • Ira Kaylin says:

      Bill,

      In my opinion last year’s budget surplus could have utilized in a far better way. Those funds could have been used in future years and would have helped lower tax rate increases

      I opposed the expenditure for tech upgrade on the basis that the “surplus” was a one time event and should have been spent on one time expenses. The expenses are more like an on-going expense, especially regarding the speed of technological change.

      • Bill says:

        So is this year’s “surplus” any different than last year’s in terms of the budget? Or was last year’s a “gimick” as well?

        • Ira Kaylin says:

          Bill,

          The surpluses of FY 12 and FY 13 are different though the gimmick is the same. The 2012 surplus was larger than projected and had not been allocated to the next year’s budget. The 2013 budget surplus was closer to projections and had been allocated to FY 2014 year’s budget.

          The advanced commitment of FY 13 “surplus” was necessitated in large measure by the 14% increase in School Division expenditures and the unwillingness of the Council to accept the City Manger’s recommended real estate tax of $1.33. The gimmick is the same in that both years show surpluses that would not have existed if the second billing hadn’t been done in June.

          As mentioned above the FY 2012 budget surplus used for real estate tax credits and tech upgrades amounted to approximately $1.4 million or over 4 cents on the tax rate. In other words, if the FY 2012 surplus been saved for future expenses the current real estate tax could be lower by that amount.

          I hope this answers your question.

  3. Linda Neighborgall says:

    Ira, thanks for your clear and honestly informative explanation of the vexing ” surplus” issue. I hope our Council has learned a lesson and will not rely any further on gimmicry in budgeting. Thanks, also, for advocating for adequate reserve fund balances – we are too small a jurisdiction and too heavily dependent on real estate taxes to risk facing a substantial emergency without sufficient reserves. If we are ever to be able to bring down our punitive real estate tax rate, it will require the kind of sensible, professional financial management you have advocated.

  4. Greg Rasnake says:

    Linda,

    Let me ask you why you feel the real estate tax rate is “punitive?” I would think most free-market types would vote with their feet and abandon the City if the rate were as punishing as you describe. Actually, it seems the opposite is true. The City continues to grow and we saw real estate values increase at a healthy pace over the past year. Ira has said on several occasions that the tax rate is too low to meet our needs. I agree.

    But let’s get to the original issue in the article. Does the Post or it’s commenters have any constructive ideas on ways to clarify this process?

  5. Jim Link says:

    Hey Greg? Do your job, last time I looked you’re the elected official here, right? You’re the one who should be coming up with ideas and then presenting them to us, the public, if we don’t like them we’ll shoot them down. If you don’t like THAT arrangement? Well I’ll quote another politician… Get out of the kitchen.

    Obviously we haven’t hit the tipping point where people feel like the ROI they have in the city is deficient… yet, but they will. The canary in the coal mine here are the senior citizens leaving the city or the empty nesters, the ones with a lot of disposable income.

    The city and it’s tax structure has become an ouroboros, except it won’t be able to recreate itself after it has consumed its last revenue source. So now it’s just a matter of time…

    So you better come up with something quick Greg!

  6. Greg Rasnake says:

    Jim,

    I am an elected official; so is Eric Cantor, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, and Ted Cruz. You know what we all have in common? None of us have any direct responsibility for how the Falls Church City budget process ultimately operates. That is the duty of Falls Church City Council. We (the School Board) submit our recommended budget to Council just like the Police, Fire, Parks and Rec, etc. and Council either approves it or not. As for the comments about how the sky is going to fall, I try to confine my comments to facts. Despite all of the dire warnings about economic calamity that raising taxes would bring, so far we seem to being doing pretty darn good.

    • Bill says:

      Eventhough Jim was a little obnixious in his comments, his sentiments are very valid. Young people staring out in the work force don’t move here and senior citizens are moving out because of our tax rates. We need these people to pay into the tax system in order for this work. Otherwise, it’s not sustainable. The people currently paying into the system are taking more out of the system because they demand more of the services (e.g. schools). Once my kids leave the school system, is there really any incentive for me to stay? Why would I keep paying these high tax rates if I feel like I’m not getting an equal balance in services? More needs to be done so young people without kids (and even better, more disposable income) add to the economy here. We also need to do a better job in making this area more attractable so people have seen there kids move out will want to stay. My neighboor, who moved out last year as he saw the last of his 7 kids move out his house, left because the he said the property taxes were just getting too high for him to stay. We can continue down this same path but eventually you might as well just turn the city into a gated community as middle class will just be priced on out. Unless you are okay with that.

  7. Greg Rasnake says:

    Thank you Bill. I appreciate both the tone and the substance of your comments. I tend to think that a democratic free market will dictate who lives here. We (Falls Church) elect people who reflect our values. We value education. Good education is expensive. We make budget decisions to meet that need. Our tax rates reflect that. I’d love to live in Malibu or Maui but the jobs aren’t there and I can’t afford it. I also have school age kids, so what makes sense for me is to live in a place that values education and has a good jobs market. That is a sentiment shared by many here. Can I say that when my kids are gone I won’t leave? Depends on how the market in Malibu is looking I guess.

    But seriously, you raise good and valid points that are worthy of debate. Thank you.

    • Jim Link says:

      Greg? Really, really?

      You’ve got the stones to take the high road here after the way you’ve gone after people and behaved in your comments on this very site? Puh leeez!

      There are so many inconsistencies in both your comments here it’s laughable and for a guy who doesn’t have anything to do with the budget you sure have a lot of idea… Err opinions about it. As for living here after your kids leave you’ve either got a desire to waste your money or you have an irrevocable trust fund… Which is it? With the reference to Cruz in you first post I am gonna guess the latter and not the former.

      But hey I wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings

  8. Greg says:

    Sorry Jim. No trust fund here. After Dad got back from Vietnam, he worked in a tobacco factory and Mom worked for the County. I put myself through school on the GI Bill. Sorry that I don’t fit your preconceived bias of who I should be. As for my opinions, I assumed that’s what this section is for. Am I mistaken? Or do you think Sam just built this as an echo chamber for people to post anti-school/anti-tax screeds with no other opinions welcome? Either way I won’t be silenced or censored because you don’t like what I have to say. As much as I disagree with what you’ve said and how you’ve said it, I believe you have every right to do so. As a matter of fact, in the marketplace of ideas, you may be my best advocate.

    As for hurting my feelings; I’m just fine Jim. I just won’t be bullied or silenced by the likes of you.

  9. Jim Link says:

    Yeah you’re liberal politician! What an uncommon thing to find in Falls Church City.

    Now that we got that out of the way, and your little bit of shameless politicking to get re-elected let’s get back to the issue at hand.

    First, Bill agreed with me, he just didn’t agree with my vitriol, what he didn’t know was that YOU have a history of attacking folks here and when you get called on it you back down, and like Brian W, you want to have coffee with the folks you attack. So when I saw that you were back and giving Linda a hard time and then wanting her to come up with ideas, I could not hold back.

    So, since it’s not a trust fund that you’re spending to keep yourself here after your kids graduate, that means you like to waste money. Again how odd, a liberal politician in Falls Church City that wastes money… who’d of thunk it?

    As stated previously (and you agree with) there is only one reason you move here, for the education, I totally agree, but THAT is not enough to keep a budget balanced. In fact it does the exact opposite, from what I’ve heard the school system is already going to ask for more this budget cycle. More?! Will it ever end? I think not especially when the school population is growing, where do you get the extra money from? We’re already the highest rate in NoVA and we have no other revenue sources to tap, we have no CBD to speak of, and there is no other reason to move here than the schools and BTW? They take from the bottom line they don’t add to it.

    So Greg, you’re an elected politician, you sits on the school board, the school wants more money, you’re solution is to raise taxes to satisfy that need… I see you defending a $2 mil rate in the next few years. Provided you get re-elected of course.

    By the way no one censored you when you wanted to attack folks here did they?

  10. Greg Rasnake says:

    Jim,

    Well I guess if you want to label me a “liberal politician” that is fine. Seems like you like to attach labels, so go for it. But maybe you should get your facts straight, I’m not running for re-election. As far as having a “history of attacking people,” who’s the one doing the name calling here? Is your definition of attacking people debating or calling into question things people say?

    Also, I didn’t say that education was the only reason I moved here. Jobs and Property value are other reasons. And it seems like I chose wisely. Since we moved here we have seen a really nice appreciation in our home value, albeit in the face of these “dreaded” tax increases – who’d have thunk it?

    Now I guess the Teabaggers up on the Hill may crater our local and national economy soon and we’ll all lose home equity and maybe even our jobs. Of course the same Corporate types who backed Tea Party candidates in 2010, may not be as liberal with their checkbooks this time around as they watch their corporate earnings and stock portfolios go down down down. I guess time will tell.

    Oh and Yes, I do think we should probably be somewhere closer to $2 per million. At that rate we’d be able to address our crumbling civil, water, and parks infrastructure and start making some headway in our struggle to keep up with school facility needs. We have artificially strangled the city coffers as a result of tax cuts and low rates from years gone by. Adjusted for inflation our tax rate is actually quite low. But now we’re feeling the impact of that. So we have tough choices: let the schools suffer (not a good moral or financial idea I’m my opinion), let City services and infrastructure suffer (also a short sighted idea) or raise taxes and increase revenue to meet all of these needs.

    And so you’re not confused, I have absolutely no interest in having coffee with you.

    • Jim Link says:

      Oh my god you are such a wind bag… your only solution is to raise taxes?

      Here’s the issue, you, like most people in the city don’t know the difference between a non-appreciating asset and a revenue source.

      The schools are an asset that draws people here but once here they realize that it is the only thing the city has and it requires a huge amount of resources to run. Resources we don’t have, let me point it out to you:
      1. There are no major industries here to work for
      2. Residents do their shopping outside of the city limits
      3. We have no major destinations to go to here in the city
      All three of these things are revenue sources, that produce tax dollars the only revenue source we have is tax payers. I believe the word that comes to mind is “unsustainable”? But hey, you’re a guy who thinks a $2 real estate tax would be a good thing, OIY no wonder you’re not running for re-election with that as your platform you’d really go far! You are truly inspiring.

      And trust me I was never confused!

      What was it Gandalf said to Grima Wormtongue?

      “I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a witless worm!”:

      • Matt Johnson says:

        Jim, do you live in the city? If so, why?

        • Jim Link says:

          Let me guess Matt, you’re mad that I am not staying in lock-step with the rest of the Falls Church City Kool Aid drinking crowd?

          I am not going to answer your question, it’s not worth it, you’ll have to figure it out on your own.

          • Matt Johnson says:

            Jim, I’m not mad at you. I ask because it sounds like you think the tax rate is too high and the city has little to offer. I’m wondering what keeps you in Falls Church. I don’t think I’ll be able to figure it out on my own if you don’t answer, but that’s okay, I’ll survive.

            • Jim Link says:

              It’s all good Matt.

              My kids keep me in the city, we came here because of the promise of the vaunted FCC school system. My kids are well past Mt Daniel/TJ and the bloom is off the rose and it’s far too late to back out now for them, so we stay.

              FCC schools do a great job of catering to the top, by law they have to cater to the kids that need special help, but if your kid is in the middle, well tough luck. We would have been much better off in Fairfax where the resources are vast and deep for all kids and the schools are actually pretty good. The other selling point for most is that the class sizes are small, also a good thing but, when you peel back the rind? It’s really tough for kids who in the middle are in the middle and forced to the periphery. As in, school can be a tough place, we all know that, but if you’re in a large school you can blend into the background and be lost in the sheer size of a classes. You can’t do that in FCC schools especially if you’ve been in the system since kindergarten. You’re not allowed to remake yourself and shake off bad decisions or worse not be smart, the kids in the schools eat you alive if you fall into that group.

              Trust me when I tell you there is nothing that compares to being an average kid in a school system built to cater to the top smartest students. Think of the pressure these middle kids have to deal with, it’s awful. At this point though we’re so far in, it would be disaster to try and back out, so we’re stuck.

              But, when we’re done with the school system we’re outta here. There is no way we’d stay especially since we’d be effectively renting our house back from the city after we’ve paid for it to the tune of $1200 a month. It’s just not worth it! We’ll go rent a place for that amount and live like kings in real “life-style” destination far from FCC and it’s school system.

              See Greg, my simplistic budgetary analysis has some basis in fact. But hey raise your taxes to $2 or $3 dollars just hope your kids aren’t average or it’s a slow walk through hell for everyone.

      • Greg Rasnake says:

        Jim,

        Please continue to disparage me with your buffoonish ad hominem attacks and simpleton economic analysis. With every venomous comment you drive rational people away from your worldview. By all means, proceed.

        • Jim Link says:

          Oh my goodness, those sure are some big words yer usin’ I don’t know but you may be rhul smart, them there are SAT werds!

          NOT!

          Sure thing tax boy, you’re a one trick pony, You’re solution to any situation is just raise taxes, what ever you do don’t use your brain to be creative, you may hurt yourself. Wait a minute you already have!

          What amazes me is that you attack people on this blog and then want to play the smart even handed guy? Go back and read your other attacks GREG… Please

  11. Brian Williams says:

    Economic development is an essential part of this discussion. Shopping options such as BJs and popular restaurants generate significant revenue for the city (e.g., a restaurant the size of Mad Fox can offset your residential tax rate by more than a penny). They also provide reason for young professionals to come here and empty nesters to stay here. The Harris Teeter project alone (including the apartments and school kids that come with it) is projected to generate the equivalent of 3-4 cents on the tax rate.

    We are small, but what land we do have is woefully underperforming in terms of non-residential tax generation. We can shift this by attracting the right kind of development in the years to come. Yes, it will result in more density (people) but the right projects can be a financial net positive, as long as we embrace the growth and invest in our infrastructure — including school needs such as a new high school.

    I don’t believe we can simply increase residential taxes and try to be a “gated community” even if we wanted to. Unlike other affluent areas of the country, we’re immediately surrounded by communities that offer many of the same benefits (if not more) — including good schools — making it simple for people to move. We need a balanced population where most households don’t have school kids but choose to stay for other reasons.

    I also don’t believe that we can simply cut school costs to keep taxes down and survive as a city. School costs are mostly driven by staff size, which in turn reflects the student population — which is increasing. So, I do expect residential taxes to continue increase in the short-term, but in the long-term I’m optimistic they will fall more inline with the surrounding communities as our economic development efforts bear fruit. I’m not happy about paying higher taxes, but I am a supporter of funding our schools to keep classroom sizes reasonable able and qualified teachers and staff onboard.

    One immediate issue I’d like our city council to look into is to consider expanding our existing tax relief program (to address the example of Bill’s neighbor above). Doing so would be both neighborly and finically prudent.

    • Greg Rasnake says:

      Brian,

      I appreciate your comments. I do disagree with you in regards to your concerns about our “competitor” communities. I agree that Arlington, McLean, Vienna, and other Fairfax “Woodson” neighborhoods have very good schools. But the schools are also huge and come with big school issues. You also have longer commutes in most of those areas. I know it may sound crazy, but it can take nearly as long to get in and out of a North Arlington or McLean neighborhood than it takes to get into DC from Falls Church. And on the whole, Falls Church is a far more walkable area. In Falls Church, access to government services and ability to contribute to policy is far greater than in Fairfax or Arlington County. Don’t get me wrong, there are many things about Arlington and Fairfax that are fantastic. But I do think there are many reasons people will continue to pay higher real estate taxes in order to live here. But let our schools start to slip in any way……this City craters.

      • Brian Williams says:

        I agree, Greg, that Falls Church has many unique things to offer and can sustain a somewhat higher tax rate than our neighbors. I just think we might differ a bit on what residential tax rate we could support. I’m not sure what the number is, but I’ve commented before that if we get it wrong the collapse of the city will be a painful one.

        Think about how it could happen: if taxes increase to the level of forcing large numbers of people to move out, the most likely people to leave are those without kids, and the most likely people to replace them are those with kids. Since even 1 kid in the school system is a net negative for the city (i.e., 1 kid costs the city more per year to educate than the average household pays in residential taxes) that kind of turnover in housing a financial “death spiral” as others have called it.

        I understand your point about the commute, but if people can save significant monthly costs by simply moving a few block away into Arlington — and still enjoy the same quality of life, access to dining, and commute time … many will. However, if we can keep our tax rate close and add more positives to the community (improved walkability/bike access, more dining/entertainment, efficient city services, etc.) and inspire our residents to have a real and lasting sense of involvement and a pride in our city, then we’ll have a bright future.

        I do find it frustrating to hear people say they plan to flee the city as soon as their kids are done with the schools. They’ve benefited from their neighbors paying into the system, only to leave when it’s convenient for them — that’s not the way a public school system (or a community, for that matter) can be successful. That said, I put some of the blame on our city and school leadership, since they need to inspire our community to stick together long-term.

        I do agree that letting our schools decline would be a disaster for our city. Among other things, home values would decline for everyone. I also agree that, unfortunately, taxes will likely need to rise before they fall.

    • Jim Link says:

      So if your numbers are correct, then they would back up a concept I’ve had for awhile now.

      Hey Greg, watch here as I explain an idea that doesn’t involve raising taxes.

      We can’t compete with Fairfax for business locations, we can’t compete with Tysons or Seven Corners for shopping, but we can compete for something else, we can become a destination for dining. We give incentives to new restaurants like Mad Fox to set-up shop here. In essence we become the destination to go to after you’ve been shopping, we charge for parking, we give incentives to the restaurateurs and charge a dining tax.

      I know we already have some good restaurants I am talking about tripling that amount and getting more quality establishments like Mad Fox. Falls Church City becomes known for fine dinning, that would be sustainable and something both empty nesters and young professionals want to stick around for.

      What do you think?

      • Greg Rasnake says:

        I think it’s a great concept. I’d love to see it happen. I don’t think raising real estate tax rate is the only way to create revenue.

      • Brian Williams says:

        Becoming a dining destination is a part of the puzzle, Jim. Unfortunately, it’s not easy but I expect this will happen to an extent. Limiting factors include:

        1. Parking. We’re working on this and making some progress, but if we’re going to add restaurants and attract a lot more people, we’ll need more parking options (possibly even a large shared garage). It’s possible we could charge for parking, but it’s not a simple thing to figure out.
        2. Suitable Space. New developments are good in that they can include ground-floor space designed for restaurants (including amenities like outdoor seating) — plus they’ll have enough parking. Mad Fox is an example of this. That said, successful restaurants like Clare & Don’s and Dogwood are good examples of rehabbed spaces (both of which are expanding), so it doesn’t have to be all new.
        3. Density. A great way to attract new restaurants is to make sure there are plenty of friendly customers within walking distance — which is what these mixed use projects bring.

        One thing I’d counter is that I do believe Falls Church can compete with other areas for business locations (i.e., commercial office space). Our location in the metro area is exceptional, and we still have some areas of the city that could be consolidated and redeveloped into good size commercial districts, with dense (i.e., tall buildings), plenty of parking, and even shared transportation options to the nearby metro stops.

    • Bill says:

      Well said, Brian. I do like what I’ve seen recently regarding economic development. Why it took so long is beyond me. I don’t think we can ever get quite like what Clarendon is now but the Broad Street corridor has such great potential. Something had to change as jacking up real estate rates (along with assessments going up at a pretty good clip) to fund the schools is just not a long term solution. It will be interesting whether the area will continue to tolerate any more real estate rate increases considering many in this area work for the government and have directly or indirectly been effected by the sequester and shutdown this past year.

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