The Falls Church City manager last week called for lowering the city property tax rate, but even if the City Council adopts the recommendation, most homeowners will pay higher real estate taxes next year.
This is because property throughout the city has been reassessed for the first time in three years and values are up an average of 24 percent.
Under the proposal by City Manager Harry E. Wells, the property tax rate would be cut by almost 15 percent. Even with that cut, revenues are expected to increase by 5 percent because of increased real estate values. The proposal is part of an $8.914 million budget plan for fiscal 1979.
Falls Church real estate has been taxed at 50 percent of its assessed value, at a rate of $2.85 for each $100 of assessed valuation. But next year, property will be taxed as 100 percent of its assessed value. Wells said the tax generate would only need to be $1.15 to general revenues equal to last year's, primarily because of the increased value of real estate in the city.
However, Wells recommended that the tax rate be set at $1.21 for every $100 of assessed valuation to generate $17,000 in additional real estate revenues neede for this year's budget.
All that translates into higher taxes for many homeowners. For example, last year, a homowner with a house valued at $80,000 paid taxes of about $1,140. Even with the lower rate of $1.21, the owner of the same home would pay about $1,210 in taxes this year, an increase of $70. The increase primarily would be the result of the higher value of the house, which probably would be about $100,000.
Wells budget proposal for fiscal 1979 would principally finance municipal operations and is up $788,447 over this year's budget. The city manager said, however, $300,641 would be a one-time expenditure to retire the debt on 1.68 acres of land in the Historic Triangle area, which the city plans to sell to a private developer.
Turnout at a public hearing Monday night on the budget was ligth. Only two persons testified, one in support of the proposed budget and one in opposition.
One of those testifying, James Studer, criticized the proposal. Studer said the proposal would increase real tax costs to single-family homeowners and would be a particular burden to the elderly.
Elizabeth Blystone, chairman of the Falls Church School Board spoke in favor the budget proposal. The school district has asked for an increase of 1.9 percent in the city constribution to the school budget for next year.
Earlier, in his budget message to the council, Wells said his recommendation included a 6 percent increase for salaries of city employes.
Wells said the city's financial condition was improving and credited a slowdown in city expenses and the use of "nuisance taxes," such as the city's meals tax and transient occupancy tax with helping to strengthen the city's economy. He also said $268,000 in estimated surplus from the 1978 budget and the small increase in the school board request for funds helped to "alleviate pressure" on city taxes.
Wells' recommendation includes $5.5 million for human resource programs, the largest of which is a school board request for $3.160 million.
Wells also recommended that $2.122 million of the general fund be used for environmental development, including $32,000 to establish an office of business development, to serve "as a liaison between the business community and the city government."
The environmental development recommendation also includes $1.489 million for streets, public ways and buildings.
The city manager recommended that $1.287 million be appropriated to fund municipal operations. That funding would include $245,000 for the operating subsidies of Metrobus and Metrorail service, a 26 percent increase over this year's expenses.
The council will make its final decision on the budget on April 24. Another public hearing scheduled for 8 p.m. April 10 in the Council Chamber at City Hall.