By Patrick Szabo
Tuesday night’s Purcellville Town Council meeting allowed for yet another public discussion of the council’s proposed FY 2018 budget.
The council sought to clarify concern about chargebacks, governmental transparency and police department funding.
“You’re looking at doing some things in your budgets and changing things to not have chargebacks and think that that’s a better way to lower your water and sewer rates,” said Former Councilwoman Joan Lehr. “It is not. Chargebacks are the most common accounting practice in business to ensure you that know where your money is coming from and where it’s going.”
The council has made it clear that it will be looking to scale back chargebacks, or perhaps do away with them altogether.
According to Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser, chargebacks have been practiced in Purcellville for 11 years and have taken $10 million from the utility fund for the general fund.
He insisted chargebacks can’t be measured and, therefore, can’t be improved upon.
“My goal is to look not only this year at a chargeback, but in futurity,” he said. “I will put together an article, I’ll call it ‘Demystifying Chargebacks’ to lay it out so a 6-year-old can understand it.”
With a large debt burden in the town’s water and wastewater funds, the council is now looking at different methods to alleviate that burden without using chargebacks.
“Our objective is to make things clearer,” said Councilman Nedim Ogelman. “To look for ways to not put pressure on higher water rates and higher sewer rates.”
Ogelman said the only way to reconcile low rates while maintaining an obligation to the debt is to keep growing—slowly.
“The people of this town at the election made a very clear decision that they would not like to pursue aggressive, irresponsible growth,” he said. “Our effort to try to reconcile slow growth with being responsible with the debt, and also making sure that people’s tax and utility rates don’t go up is to figure out how to right-size government.”
Aside from budget transparency, the council also addressed a topic that brought worried residents to the meeting—funding for the Purcellville Police Department.
“If you don’t have a police department, you can just watch the movie called The Purge,” one Purcellville resident said. “I’d rather have my taxes raised and sleep safe at night.”
He wasn’t the only one to speak up in support for bolstering police department funding.
Several other residents mirrored his concerns, emphasizing that they would be willing to pay more taxes to keep the police department at full force.
Their concerns come from the council’s May 2 budget work session proposals to make cuts in the agency’s overtime and firearms budget, eliminate two requested positions and trim money from its computer operations.
The council assured residents there would be no cuts in the police department.
The next budget work session is scheduled for Wednesday, May 17.