Town of Vienna sign on Maple Avenue (file photo)

Vienna residents’ next property tax bills won’t be quite as high as anticipated, even as the town commits to raising employee salaries and other additional costs.

The Vienna Town Council voted unanimously last night (Monday) to adopt a $48.7 million budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 with a real estate tax rate of 20.5 cents per $100 of assessed value — a 1.75-cent cut from the current rate. The new budget will be in effect from July 1 through June 30, 2023.

This will be the 10th consecutive year that the town has reduced or maintained its real estate tax rate, according to a news release.

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The McLean Citizens Association is hosting an online forum Feb. 28 to give people a chance to ask questions to local government and school leaders.

The meeting will come less than a week after Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill is scheduled to present his proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 on Tuesday (Feb. 22).

Hill projected in November that the county will see “robust” revenue growth in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, due primarily to growth in the real estate tax base.

However, the forecast also anticipated a $40.7 million shortfall, noting that a tax relief expansion could reduce revenue by $12 million.

The MCA’s annual forum will occur from 7 to 9 p.m. with Hill, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, and chief financial officers for the county and Fairfax County Public Schools slated to attend.

Those seeking to ask questions must register, as attendance will be capped at 100 people. But the group will also livestream the event on its Facebook page.

Both the county Board of Supervisors and FCPS pass their own budgets. Superintendent Scott Brabrand presented his proposed budget for the school system on Jan. 13, and the school board discussed it at a work session on Feb. 8.

The school board is scheduled to adopt an advertised budget on Feb. 24.

In the past, MCA’s budget forum has provided insight into tax implications of the county budget and how limited funding sources, including federal COVID-19 relief measures, will affect revenues.

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Collection truck (via Fairfax County)

Same-day deliveries have become increasingly popular, thanks to companies like Amazon and Uber Eats, but that convenience could come at a cost for local governments.

The Town of Vienna’s sanitation division operating budget — which includes collection workers, landfill fees for waste and recycling, and other costs — has remained around the same in recent fiscal years: $1.850 million in 2019, $1.925 million in 2020, and $1.871 million in 2021.

However, Vienna Town Council representative Steve Potter told the Virginia Mercury last month that the uptick in shipping has meant additional costs for governments due to the amount of nonrecyclable packaging as well as the need for personnel and facilities to recycle cardboard boxes and other materials.

Del. Mark Keam, whose district includes the Town of Vienna, and other state legislators tried to intervene with bills that would have required businesses to pay an environmental fee based on packaging, but the proposals failed to go forward in a House subcommittee.

Potter didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.

Fairfax County’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services shared a similar sentiment.

“It is intuitive that the increase in home delivery services over the past few years has had an impact on waste generation and composition,” department spokesperson Sharon North said in a statement.

Even if people want to recycle, there are still setbacks. Most of the plastic packaging in which customers get items isn’t recyclable in the region, according to Fairfax County.

While the pandemic shifted people away from workspaces, reducing commercial use, future annual reports from the state could provide a clearer look at the trash and recycling habits of residents and businesses.

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Morning Notes

Herrity Criticizes Langley HS Book Display — Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity took issue with a display in Langley High School’s library featuring books “some adults don’t want you to read.” The supervisor later claimed that Fairfax County Public Schools “apologized for the sign on display” and “are now reviewing their policies and procedures.” [Pat Herrity/Twitter]

How to Detect COVID-19 Scams — “Martin Bailey, a member of the Northern Virginia AARP Fraud Watch Network, the Virginia Senior Medicare Patrol and Fairfax County’s Silver Shield Task Force, regularly produces a Scam Slam audio series. And the most recent Scam Slams cover these COVID scams — unsubstantiated COVID-19 treatment claims appearing on social media platforms, phony COVID testing sites and how to get your free COVID test kits.” [Fairfax County Health Department]

Tysons Ritz-Carlton Among Top Virginia Hotels — “We are delighted to share that The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner has been awarded the #9 Best Hotel in Virginia and #20 in Washington, D.C., and has earned a Gold Badge in the Best USA Category by U.S. News and World Report! Thank you to our guests for supporting us through the years and for the #RCMemories shared.” [The Ritz-Carlton Tysons/Facebook]

General Assembly Hits Midpoint — It’s crossover day for the Virginia General Assembly, when the House and Senate take up the other chamber’s bills. The Republican-controlled House has passed a slate of bills favored by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, including restrictions on voting, abortion, and school curriculums, while the Democratic Senate has mostly blocked the governor’s agenda. [The Washington Post]

McLean Budget Forum Scheduled — With the new proposed county government budget set to be unveiled next Tuesday (Feb. 22), the McLean Citizens Association will host a free, virtual public forum on the topic on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. Participants will include Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, School Board Representative Elaine Tholen, and County Executive Bryan Hill. [MCA]

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Faith Baptist Church in Vienna (via Google Maps)

The Vienna Town Council unanimously voted Monday (Feb. 7) to borrow $12 million to fund capital projects, including improvements of roadways, sidewalks, and the recently acquired Faith Baptist Church building.

Of the $12 million in bond funding, $6.7 million will be repaid with meals taxes, $3.9 million repaid with water and sewer fees and $1.2 million repaid by the general fund, Director of Finance Marion Serfass told the council at its Monday meeting.

About 44% of the money will go toward construction improvements to streets and sidewalks, and 33% for water and sewer projects. The remainder of the costs are for smaller facility improvements, like parks and recreation projects, public-use vehicles, and bond issuance costs.

“I do want to say for the record that the town does not undertake borrowing $12 million lightly,” Councilmember Chuck Anderson said. “We have a stellar financial record and that money is cheap, and we’re using these funds for capital improvements that are much needed, so this is actually a very fiscally smart and responsible thing to do.”

Councilmember Ray Brill responded that “money is never cheap” and “there is a cost to the money.”

Serfass told Tysons Reporter that this morning (Thursday), credit rating agencies Moody’s and S&P both reaffirmed their AAA rating of the town, the highest possible rating, because of the town’s likelihood to pay back the debt.

Projects from the $26.5 million 2022 Capital Improvement Plan that will get some of the bond funding include:

  • Glen Avenue sidewalks ($1.9 million)
  • Asphalt and mill overlay ($1.65 million)
  • Glyndon Road SE improvements from Locust Street to Valley Drive ($725,000)
  • The Freeman Store and Museum roof replacement ($95,000)
  • Glyndon Park playground and parking lot replacement ($300,000 each)
  • Faith Baptist Church property improvements ($300,000)

Many of the projects have additional funding allocated in the CIP from the town’s American Rescue Plan Act money or from the Robinson Trust Sidewalk Initiative.

“A good use of the American Rescue Plan Act money is capital projects, one-time projects that don’t require additional funding going forward, so not a new program,” Serfass said at the town council’s Jan. 24 meeting when it approved the CIP. “That really is a benefit to us as a town and is going to allow us to take a little pressure off our debt capacity and off our water and sewer rates.”

Bond funding, including premiums, accounted for $37.6 million of the town’s 2020 CIP, which included about $15 million for the police station renovation, and $9.2 million of the 2018 CIP.

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Morning Notes

Idylwood Shooting Was a Suicide — Fairfax County police confirmed community reports that they responded to a shooting in the 7600 block of Virginia Lane near the W&OD Trail over the weekend. A spokesperson told Tysons Reporter that an individual died by suicide in a backyard, explaining that the department generally doesn’t publicly report suicides. [FCPD]

Funding for New 911 Model Approved — A budget review approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (Jan. 25) included Covid relief funds for 26 positions to support the first phase of a permanent program where police work with behavioral health specialists when responding to 911 calls. The county began piloting the co-responder model last year. [Jeff McKay]

“City View” Tysons Site Sold to Developer — An affiliate of D.C. developer Four Points LLC bought the former Association for Manufacturing Technology building site at 7901 Westpark Drive for about $10 million in late December. AMT was poised to build a 10-story office tower on the lot east of Tysons Galleria, but the site’s future under Four Points, which generally works on primarily residential mixed-use projects, is unclear. [Washington Business Journal]

McLean Gift Shop to CloseThe Artisans will close in February after 32 years of selling handmade clothing, home decor, and other items, starting in 1990 at Marketplace of McLean before moving to its current location in the Langley Shopping Center. The owners plan to retire and are selling everything for 20% off. [Patch]

County Retains AAA Bond Rating — “On Wednesday, Jan. 19, Fairfax County completed a successful bond sale, generating $300 million to fund various project areas, after once again affirming its AAA bond rating with all three major rating agencies.” [Fairfax County Government]

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Morning Notes

Local Elected Officials React to Mask Lawsuit — Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) and Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn (D-31st) and Marcus Simon (D-53rd) were among the Congressional and General Assembly representatives who expressed support for the Fairfax County School Board’s lawsuit seeking to stop Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order prohibiting mask requirements in schools. [Twitter]

Metro Seeks Public Comment on New Budget — “The public comment period for Metro’s Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget is officially open, and Metro’s Board of Directors wants the public’s input. Metro is encouraging the public to share feedback before the comment period ends at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, February 15.” [WMATA]

Redistricting Committee Meets to Talk Name Changes — “Lee, Mason, Mount Vernon, Springfield and Sully Board of Supervisors’ Districts could be getting new names. The Redistricting Advisory Committee is meeting virtually on Tuesday, Jan. 25, to begin discussing these possible name changes.” [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]

Students Sought for MCC Governing Board — “If you are a high school student who lives or attends school in the Langley or McLean high school boundary areas and you’d like to gain leadership skills and serve your community, consider running for a seat on the McLean Community Center’s Governing Board.” [Fairfax County Government/YouTube]

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Morning Notes

Fairfax High Students Walk Out in Protest — “Hundreds of students from Fairfax High School…walked out in protest Thursday morning to show their support for a student they say was attacked in an Islamophobic incident. A Change.org petition calling on Fairfax school administrators to do more about the incident, which happened Tuesday, has garnered more than 3,600 signatures.” [WTOP]

Virginia Budget Plan Unveiled — For the 2022-2024 state budget, his final as governor, Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed about $2.1 billion in tax cuts, including an elimination of the 1.5% state grocery tax. Expenditures include pay raises for public school teachers, state employees, and law enforcement and corrections officers, along with $2.8 billion for capital improvement projects. [The Washington Post]

Program Offers Free Lyft Rides Over Holidays — “The SoberRide program offering free Lyft rides to keep would-be drunk drivers off the roads will kick off on Friday, Dec. 17. The nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program holds the SoberRide in partnership with Lyft during the winter holiday season as well as St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Independence Day and Halloween, other high-risk holidays for drunk driving.” [Patch]

Vienna Theatre Company Cancels Shows — “Due to illness, the cast and crew for ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ is regrettably cancelling this weekend’s performances (Dec. 17, Dec. 18 and Dec. 19). All tickets for cancelled shows will be fully refunded. If you have any questions, please call 703-255-6360.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Virginia Hospital Center Expands into Tysons — “The Arlington health system has purchased a building at 1760 Old Meadow Road where it’s setting up an orthopedic outpatient surgery center, according to VHC CEO Jim Cole. The hospital is now renovating a 14,900-square-foot area of existing building in a project expected to cost $6.4 million including construction and equipment…The facility is slated to open in mid-2022.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Releases FY 2023 Budget Forecast — Fairfax County anticipates a 5.7% revenue increase of approximately $279.6 million for fiscal year 2023, which starts July 1, 2022. However, the gains will be offset by continued declines in real estate values for office buildings and senior care facilities due to the pandemic. [Fairfax County Government]

County Police Focus on Recruitment and Violent Crimes — “While monitoring disturbing trends such as domestic homicides and increasingly violent vehicle thieves, Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis hopes to hire more officers and implement changes to modernize the police department. The county’s overall crime rate now is down by slightly more than 12%, or about 3,500 fewer victims compared with the previous year.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Town of Vienna Offices Closed Tomorrow — “Town offices and the Community Center will be closed Nov. 25 for Thanksgiving. There will be no trash collection on Nov. 25, crews will pick up along that route the next day. The Community Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 26, while Town offices will be closed.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Visit Fairfax Launches Holiday Gift Guide — “Ali Morris at Visit Fairfax, the county’s official tourism and hospitality promotion group, created the Fairfax County 2021 Holiday Gift Guide to showcase gift-worthy products created right here and the artisans behind the creations. You can shop by these categories: art and designs; body; chocolate; coffee; food; kids; pets; stocking stuffers; textiles; wine, beer and spirits.” [FCEDA]

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Compensation increases for employees and real estate tax cuts for residents are on the table, as the extra money keeps rolling in for the Town of Vienna.

In addition to receiving $8.5 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds this summer, the town ended the last fiscal year (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021) with $900,000 in surplus revenue, staff told the Vienna Town Council in a conference session on Monday (Oct. 18).

“We’re in this position because we cut our budget. We cut our revenues to deal with the pandemic. We had to cut our expenditures,” Finance Director Marion Serfass said. “But then our revenues came in in some key areas pretty darn close to what we had budgeted, so that gave us a nice surplus.”

According to town staff, Vienna got higher-than-expected revenue from sales taxes, business licenses, zoning permit fees, and state and federal revenues in FY 2020-2021. In addition, position vacancies helped keep costs down.

Vienna’s budget committee presented three options for allocating the surplus funds.

Scenario 1

The town could follow its traditional practice of putting half of any surplus in a rainy day fund and using the other half to cover currently unfunded priorities:

  • $125,000 to fix pay compression for 41 employees
  • $175,000 for street paving work
  • $50,000 for tree maintenance and beautification
  • $100,000 to address 2022 budget corrections

Scenario 2

Because the rainy day reserve is already above where it needs to be, town staff proposed instead “returning” some money to employees and taxpayers. If the town allocates all $900,000 in the current fiscal year, it could:

  • Cover the unfunded priorities above, except paving would get just $75,000
  • $280,000 to give residents a half-cent tax rebate
  • $270,000 to give employees a 3% salary increase starting on Jan. 1, 2022

Scenario 3

The town could also hold $550,000 to spend next fiscal year, while still covering the unfunded priorities now:

  • $280,000 to reduce the real estate tax rate by half a cent
  • $270,000 to increase employee salaries by 3% starting on July 1, 2022

Serfass noted that the surplus could be spent on any priorities, but she suggested paving and tree maintenance because the town council had previously floated those as areas that could use more money.

“Here’s some things that fall into the category of things we wanted to do but haven’t had enough money to do them,” she said. “We could always put more money in paving. We’re only getting the index of ‘fair’…We know we have issues with trees.”

The council gave its support for funding those needs as well as holding money for a tax rate reduction in July instead of an immediate rebate.

“I know it’s not much either way, but I think [a rate reduction] has more value than mailing somebody a pretty small check,” Councilmember Ed Somers said.

The council proved skeptical, however, when it came to the proposed 3% salary increase, since it would be a recurring expense paid for with a one-time surplus.

“If you are using long-term money for short-term gain, I have never seen that work,” Councilmember Steve Potter said, adding that he would be more comfortable offering bonuses or another incentive to help recruit and retain workers.

According to Michelle Crabtree, Vienna’s human resources director, other jurisidictions have seen some success in using bonuses to recruit employees, particularly police officers and commercially licensed drivers.

“We’ve had a high turnover in public works,” she said. “We’ve lost eight people this year, and seven of them said it was one hundred percent because they could find more money elsewhere.”

Noting that Vienna is hardly alone in having labor challenges, Councilmember Nisha Patel said she would support bonuses targeted toward the positions facing the biggest hiring and retention issues.

“If we have additional funds that can go to staff, maybe we should use those more wisely to attract and retain, as opposed to just spreading it out,” Patel said.

The Vienna Town Council will hold a public hearing on the surplus funds on Nov. 15.

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