The proposed fiscal year 2018 town budget in Purcellville would hold tax rates level, while adding three staff positions and providing employee raises.
In presenting his 25th Purcellville budget last week, Town Manager Robert Lohr Jr. generally proposed holding the line on general fund spending, recommending a $97,387 increase over fiscal year 2017. Overall, the fiscal year 2018 budget envisions $20 million in spending, including $3.5 million for debt payments.
The town expects to see revenue growth in almost all of its tax collections. If the council holds the 22-cent tax rate, real estate revenues will be boosted by a $50 million increase in property values town-wide. The budget also envisions a 11.8 percent increase in business and professional license tax collections, a 7.5 percent increase in sale taxes and 4 percent growth in meals tax revenues. The town’s 5 percent meals tax is second only to property taxes in total collections, expected to bring in $1.9 million from the town’s 52 food establishments. The exception to the growth trend is the town’s cigarette tax, which continues to decline; the budget predicts a 2 percent reduction in fiscal year 2018, to just less than $225,000.
As it pores over the 300-page budget over the next month, the Town Council is expected to focus much of its work tackling challenges in two other areas of the budget—looking for new “green box” revenue opportunities. Water and sewer rates are slated to increase by as much as 7 percent next year and council members are looking for additional revenue sources that could offset traditional user fees. The rate increases are planned to cover debt payments and to prepare for a decline in availability fee revenues as the town reaches build out in the next decade. Also slated for examination is the town’s water rate structure, which has 17 rate tiers that impose higher charges—more than $50 per 1,000 gallons at the top of the scale—on high-volume water uses. The budget calls for more than $3 million in sewer service revenue and about $225 million in water revenue.
Another council priority is increasing revenue from the town-owned Fireman’s Field complex. The council is expected to issue a request for proposals in the coming weeks to solicit ideas for new revenue options for the ballfield, picnic area and Bush Tabernacle.
The town has $58,2 million in outstanding debt. More than half of that total, $30.7 million, is for the town’s wastewater treatment plant. Just more than $10 million is for Water Fund projects, about 18 percent of the total. The Parks and Recreation Special Revenue Fund, created to finance the purchase of Fireman’s Field, has $3.4 million in outstanding debt, 6 percent of the town’s total.
Among Lohr’s proposed budget increases are $160,814 to provide employees raises of 3 percent, $29,577 to hire a part-time human resources specialist, $76,128 to hire a new police officer, $67,283 to hire a new maintenance worker.
Council members said they want the community’s help in sorting through the budget. They have published a spreadsheet online at purcellvilleva.gov/budget to allow residents to see the impacts that budget cuts and increases could have.
Councilman Ryan J. Cool urged his colleagues to “be bold” in tackling the budget this year and said the council would not be rubber-stamping the staff’s proposal.
For his part, Mayor Kwasi Fraser said he planned to challenge the status quo and be disruptive in his approach to push for creativity and new ideas.
The council’s next budget work session will be Thursday, March 30, starting at 7 p.m. and will focus on the Water and Wastewater funds.