Leesburg council members are worried that town taxpayers are getting short-changed as the county government upgrades some of its systems.
First it was a requirement to spend $2 million to upgrade the town’s police communication system to remain compatible with the Sheriff’s Office. Now, the council faces a $420,000 cost to continue to share a land development permit information system with county regulators.
On Monday, the council was briefed on its options ahead of a May 1 deadline to inform the county staff whether it would commit to partnering in the planned replacement of the decades-old, purpose-built Land Management Information System with a new commercial system known as EnerGov. Loudoun’s towns have used the LMIS for free, helping to facilitate a coordinated permit review process.
In tackling the $3.5-million system replacement, the county staff is asking Leesburg to pay a share of the design cost as well as an annual fee of $44,103. The county is configuring EnerGov to work with its Oracle-based accounting systems. Leesburg uses the MUIS platform and Purcellville, the county’s second largest town, also is converting to MUIS. The county wants Leesburg to pay for the extra cost of building a MUIS interface with EnerGov.
During this week’s meeting, Deputy Town Manager Keith Markel said there are benefits to partnering with the county and from the added features that would come with the new platform. However, he said there still were too many unanswered questions about how EnerGov would integrate into other town systems for the staff or the town’s Technology and Communications Commission to commit to participating in the county’s contract.
Even if the town doesn’t move forward on that, the county wants to start charging the town $29,063 annually to use LMIS after July. The new system is expected to come online in 2021.
If Leesburg develops its own land management records system, that is expected to cost $300,000-$360,000, according to the staff report, with annual costs up to $80,000.
While agreeing that the staff should evaluate other alternatives, council members questioned whether town’s relationship with the county government is eroding.
“We’re paying taxes. They shouldn’t just kick us off,” Council member Josh Theil said. “This is just big brother strong-arming us.”
Council member Tom Dunn pointed out that a $420,000 payment would equate to raising the real estate tax rate by more than a half-cent.
Council member Neil Steinberg, who represents the council on the technology committee, said that the town on average processes only about 850 permits per year, which may not be enough to justify the costs outlined by the county. Markel said 618 town applications were entered in LMIS last year.
Council members Suzanne Fox and Ron Campbell asked for a list of other shared services provided by the county government that could be in jeopardy if, what they see as a trend, continues.
Mayor Kelly Burk said it was “frustrating” that town residents don’t seem to be getting the full value of their county tax payments.