Loudoun’s seven incorporated towns have been in talks with the county government about consolidating tax billing and collections efforts, but Purcellville has decided to not participate.
The Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to not take part in the effort, which was intended to provide a way for Purcellville residents to pay one bill for both town and county taxes.
The decision was made largely because of the town’s 2016 investment in the MUNIS system—a financial system that includes tax billing and collections. Town staff members said they want to focus on making the system as efficient and productive as possible with its current setup. Mayor Kwasi Fraser said the MUNIS system cost the town $400,000.
Purcellville’s Treasurer and Director of Finance Elizabeth Krens said the staff is focused on implementing the MUNIS system and recommended they not take on the additional work of building a combined system with the county, at least not yet.
She and other staff members urged the council to defer being a part of the effort for a few more years, not only because of the investment in the town’s MUNIS system, but also for the convenience of residents. They said Purcellville is able to provide an extra level of customer service that might not be available in larger organizations. The staff report noted that folks in the town office are familiar with specific taxes, nuances of customer accounts and other challenging issues.
There would have been up-front costs to participate in the consolidation effort, too. The town staff calculated these to be around $15,000. Under the plan, the county also would charge the towns one percent of the taxes collected to cover the costs of the program.
According to staff’s estimate, joining the effort would generate savings of $50,000 per year for the town, about $5.50 per resident. These savings would be created by a combination of additional revenue, hard cost savings and personnel time savings.
In response to a request made by the council at the April 25 Town Council Meeting to get citizen feedback on the topic, town staff posted a polling question on the town’s website.
Among 36 registered voters, 24 supported having the town join the consolidated billing effort. Most of the comments on the poll, however, disagreed with it.
One resident in favor wrote, “Save the money, the Town is already in a ridiculous amount of unnecessary debt. Whenever I have issues with the tax office in Loudoun, I have received prompt response versus a longer wait or voice mail game at the Town office.”
A resident opposed to it wrote, “I think it would result in less accountability from the Town Council for our taxes. I like the idea of paying one bill but we need to keep this local.”
While Purcellville will continue to employ the MUNIS system to bill and collect taxes, town council and staff both agreed that future participation in the county effort is not out of the question.
“At some point, we may decide that this is a good decision for the town,” Krens said. “Until then, let’s let [the other towns] move through and work on the particular program and see that it actually works.”
That delay could be costly. Krens said the county has now proposed an additional 10 percent fee for any town that joins the effort after the initial launch. For Purcellville, that penalty would be about an additional $1,500.