Blacksburg Town Manager, Marc Verniel, presented details of the town’s fiscal year 2019 recommended operating budget to the town council and attending citizens Tuesday night’s meeting.
He highlighted the nuts-and-bolts of running the town, the budgetary decision-making and jugglings of public safety, infrastructure and community services.
The local economy is healthy he said, and the town is continuing to see growth with continued residential and commercial development
“Our general fund is projected to increase by $766,700,” Verniel said, presenting pie charts and graphs describing the town’s revenue and taxes over time.
This recommended budget is available on the town’s website and copies are also at the public library.
The colorful 232-page budget documents town projects like brush leaf and debris management and highlights successes such as inter-town transit cooperation.
While the budget lists the current year’s accomplishments, including the regional bike share program, the renovation of the town’s municipal golf course and actively preparing the proposal to redevelop the old Blacksburg Middle School, it also lists the goals of rehabilitating the former Cook’s Cleaners property, improving the business climate and exploring ways Blacksburg Transit can expand to neighborhoods and way to work with the old Blacksburg High School developers to create a plan that includes recreational facilities.
“The main budget and the transmittal letter act as an executive summary for the budget,” Verniel said.
The document presented is the “recommended budget,” citizens and the town weigh in to develop the final document. The budget schedule is as follows:
April 3 – Mid-day Work session
April 10 – Public Hearing
April 17 – Mid-Day Work Session
April 24 – Consider Adopting Budget
The budget recommends a $.01 increase in real estate tax from $0.25 to $0.26 per $100 of assessed value.
The increase would generate $298,000 in additional revenue for the town and would go directly towards paying a portion of the debt on a new police station. According to town officials, the station has been inadequate in size for years.
“They’ve been very resourceful, converted every closet and mechanical room into office space. They started out in old town hall moved here on Clay Street in 1982. They’ve essentially outgrown the building,” Verniel said.
The department needs space for modern policing as well as six new officer positions. The positions are needed to support the town’s numerous festivals, race events and protests.
“Our community is the kind of community that’s very accommodating to things like that,” Verniel said. “So we want to make sure that, when people want to express their views or have festivals, that we are providing a good place for that to happen.”
Pushed by state-level realities too, those six new police positions reflect the issue of transporting people to, sometimes distant, mental health facilities that has become the responsibility of local police.
“Two officers may have to drive somebody to Virginia Beach,” Verniel said, “that can tie officers up for a full day.”
He explained why some increases in infrastructure taxes are needed. While stormwater fees are not proposed to increase, the sewer rate is because of inflation, and solid waste and recycling fees need to reflect increased charges from the hauler.
The bulk of the tax increase will be from the water rate that will go to building a new water treatment plant.
“All the members of the water authority in the region are having to raise rates because of the capital cost of the new plant,” he said.
Adding a golf course maintenance crew, planning and transit workforce positions to replace positions cut during recession are also included in the proposed budget.
Overall, the town’s general fund is $67 million. The total operating budget has a proposed increase of four percent.
The next town council meeting is Tuesday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the Roger E. Hedgepeth Chambers of the Blacksburg Municipal Building (300 S Main St.)