A real estate tax cut and a refuse and recycling fee were the highlights of the Manassas Park city manager’s proposed fiscal 2008 general fund budget on Tuesday.
City manager Mercury Payton presented the council with a $32.7 million budget, which also included the possible hiring of two new police officers, three fire and rescue staff members, a human resource manager and a 4 percent cost of living increase to all city employees.
Under the proposed budget, the real estate tax would fall from $1.14 to $1.10 per $100 of assessed value from fiscal 2007 to fiscal 2008. To compensate, the city is proposing to put money allocated for the refuse and recycling contract into the Enterprise Fund and then charge city residents a $16 monthly fee to make up the difference in the lower tax revenue. The Enterprise Fund is currently used for water and sewage, said Mayor Frank Jones.
Jones said he wanted to make it clear to city residents that the tax cut and fee balance each other out and residents will be paying about the same amount to the city. He said this is more in keeping with the way other area municipalities operate – using fees rather than using a higher tax rate. In the past, the city has kept a higher tax rate and paid for the refuse and recycling out of its general fund.
Jones said the addition of new police officers was made possible by the increase in traffic and corresponding traffic citations, as well as the addition of new responsibilities like enforcing codes in the city. Ticketing cars without parking decals or citing abandoned vehicles that may pose environmental risks are two such examples.
New fire and rescue staff would be paid by revenue being generated from the city’s proposed EMS billing. This was proposed as a cost recovery effort for future services rendered by the fire and rescue department. The rising cost of medical care and fuel have made this extremely important for departments like Manassas Park, said Fire Chief John O’Neal. A single cardiac heart monitor and a corresponding defibrillator cost $40,000.
O’Neal, who worked in the Tidewater area before coming to Northern Virginia, said this was common practice at his old job and that many area jurisdictions like the city of Manassas have adopted this EMS billing policy in recent years.
The city’s revenue-sharing agreement with Manassas Park Schools was also met. The city will transfer $18,661,000 to the school system for fiscal 2008.
On Tuesday, the council will revisit the fiscal 2007 general fund budget, which is now projected at $30,946,026. That’s almost a million less than the approved fiscal 2007 budget. The difference in the amount was primarily due to lower than expected revenues from property assessments. The expectation was that property value would increase about 23 percent from 2006, but the city is now forecasting only an 8 percent growth for 2007.
Despite the stark difference between the two property value forecasts, Manassas Park residents fared far better than those in the city of Manassas, where property value went down 5.3 percent for 2007. Manassas Park’s modest growth was largely due to the extensive renovations done to many of its Cape Cod-style houses on the city’s west side, said Jones.
“We are sustaining our city and improving the level of services in some areas and we want to continue to do that and do it in the most efficient manner possible,” Jones said.