The Lovettsville Town Council has started discussing its budget for the next fiscal year and it’s already looking good for residents.
Town Manager Sam Finz presented his budget to the Town Council on Thursday night with some changes that could see a reduction in the real estate tax rate and the elimination of trash fees.
Right off the bat, Finz recommended a decrease in the real estate tax rate from $0.21 to $0.20 per $100 of assessed value. In relation to the average value of a single-family home in town, $360,456, the reduction could save each household about $36 annually on their real estate tax bills. If approved, it would be the first time the tax rate has been reduced since 2005. It would, however, still be the third highest rate in western Loudoun, behind Hamilton’s $0.28 and Purcellville’s $0.22. “This would be the first decrease in quite some time,” Finz said.
Although the town would be reducing the rate, it still expects to collect about $10,000 more in real estate taxes next year. Finz said the tax rate reduction could be offset by the increase in residential development and the 5 percent increase in town property values, as assessed by the county’s Commissioner of the Revenue Office on Jan. 1. He also noted that the town’s increased economic development has caused the non-residential tax base to absorb more of the overall tax burden, further justifying the rate reduction.
As Finz was going over the rate reduction, Mayor Bob Zoldos the council consider eliminating the town’s vehicle decal fees, which currently residents to pay $25 for car decals and $16 for motorcycle decals annually.
“I would love to see that included in there,” Zoldos said.
Additionally, Finz proposed that the Town Council eliminate the trash fee, which former town manager Laszlo Palko created for the current fiscal year as an additional source of town revenue. “I don’t think it generates enough revenue to make a difference,” Finz said. Other towns include trash removal as part of the general government services provided as part of general fund operations.
Currently, residents pay $19.80 annually for the service. Finz said he has been negotiating a deal with American Disposal Services that could lower trash service costs to the town from $150,000 to $140,000 annually and potentially eliminate the charge that residents are required to pay for new and replacement recycling bins.
Aside from possibly benefitting residents, the proposed budget also suggests a new way of increasing staff members’ pay each year. Finz suggested eliminating bonuses in favor of a performance-based pay system, since the current system is “extremely complicated.”
The model Finz proposed works on a five-point system, in which he would conduct annual performance reviews based on multiple criteria and rate each staff member on a scale of 1-5. Each staff member would then be given a salary increase of up to 2 percent, based on a corresponding number. This would be on top of a recommended 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment. “I went back to the traditional approach,” Finz said.
Along with his proposed budget, Finz also presented the Town Council with his recommended five-year Capital Improvement Plan, which outlines two major projects for the town to pursue in fiscal year 2019—the Broad Way improvement project and the town office expansion project. The proposed budget has included $666,500 for these projects.
Finz said these projects could be funded via $136,500 pulled from town reserve funds, $180,000 from county grants and $350,000 in borrowed money.
Discussions on the budget are scheduled for up to four more meetings and a public hearing within the next three months. Zoldos said the most important date is the April 12 meeting when the Town Council will set not-to-exceed rates and fees. The next meeting will be a budget work session on Thursday, March 22.