Manassas Park government, for a second year in a row, will dip into the city’s savings to lower its real estate tax rate.
The City Council voted 6-0 Monday night to approve the city’s proposed 2003-2004 fiscal budget, which includes a $25.4 million operating fund and a nearly 3 percent drop in the real estate tax rate.
Councilwoman Vonna L. Privett was absent from the meeting.
The budget, which takes effect July 1, lowers the tax rate from $1.37 to $1.33 per $100 — a move meant to lessen the sting of higher home assessments.
Despite the 4-cent reduction, Manassas Park will still have one of the highest tax rates in the region. Prince William County’s new budget has the tax rate dropping 7 cents to $1.16. Manassas’ tax rate is set to stay at $1.20.
In addition to the rate cut, Manassas Park’s budget will fully provide the $9 million requested by city schools. The budget pays for two new firefighters, a new police officer, construction of a $1.9 million fire station near City Hall, and $25,000 for police station improvements.
“I think what we put out was a budget that addresses the concerns of citizens,” said Vice Mayor Kevin P. Brendel.
To pay for such items, the city will spend $1.71 million of its savings, leaving $3.7 million in its reserves and $1 million in its special emergency fund. The withdrawal from savings is in addition to the $1.1 million the city is spending during the present fiscal year, which ends June 30.
In contrast, Manassas’ government, which is facing losses of more than $4 million from the sale of the former Dominion Semiconductor plant, is opting to keep the real estate tax rate the same, rather than dip into the $13 million in reserves projected for the coming year.
To prevent having to use city savings in future budgets, the Manassas Park City Council also voted 5-1 Monday to put any additional tax revenue in the coming year into the city’s reserves. Councilman Michael Bunner says he believed in what the measure was trying to do, but voted against it because he wanted more money for schools.
Brendel said the city’s revenue projections are conservative enough that the city will make up much of the $1.71 million in savings it is spending.
“I feel pretty good that we’ll close the gap significantly,” he said.
The council, however, still plans to scrutinize city spending in coming months. While examining the budget took four months, the next city budget could take up to 10 months, Brendel said.
A number of changes to the way the city does business will be on the table. Special secure telephone lines might be consolidated. Services — such as maintenance of city vehicles or emergency dispatching — might be outsourced. The way the city procures equipment might be changed.
“In general, we know the next fiscal year is going to be a tough one as well,” Brendel said.
Staff writer Chris Newmarker can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 119.