Vinton Town Council reviews proposed budget for 2017-2018

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Students from William Byrd High School AP and Dual Enrollment government classes along with teacher Andrew Thacker attended the April 4 Vinton Town Council meeting to see local government at work.
Town Council and staff and the Vinton Police Department joined with the GFWC Woman’s Club of Vinton in planting the annual Pinwheel Garden in front of the Municipal Building in honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Vinton Town Manager Barry Thompson and Finance Director Anne Cantrell presented an overview of the budget they are proposing for Fiscal Year 2017-2018 at the Town Council meeting on April 4.

Their recommendations include General Fund expenditures of $8,714,969, Utility Fund (water and sewer) expenditures of $3,742,150, and Stormwater Fund expenditures of $451,505. That makes a total budget of $12,908,624, which changes little from last year.

The proposed increase in the General Fund is 0.99 percent ($85,124); the increase in the Utility Fund under this budget would be 1.57 percent. The Stormwater Fund was just created by council last year so there is no change to report.

In Virginia, municipal budgets must balance so revenues and expenditures must match. General Fund revenues in Vinton come from general property taxes, state sales taxes, the meals tax, the cigarette tax, and other local taxes. Utility Fund revenues come from water and sewer payments by customers.

After an announced public hearing held at the meeting, council set the real estate and property tax rates, which will remain the same as last year. The real estate tax rate is $0.07 per $100 assessed value. The personal property tax and machinery and tools taxes each remain at $1 per $100 assessed valuation. The cigarette tax is 25 cents per pack. The meals tax is 5 percent. There is no increase in water and sewer rates.

Council approved a tax relief rate on personal property of 59.7 percent, which is a slight decrease from last year, which means there will be less tax relief per person.

Suggested Capital Improvements in the General Fund include replacement of a refuse truck at $33,722, replacing a dump truck at $33,703, and maintenance work on Garthwright Bridge estimated at $30,000.

Suggested CIP expenditures in the Utility Fund include such items as upgrading the meter reading system, purchase of a Sewer Jetter Vac Combination Truck, purchase of a utility dump truck, purchase of an air compressor for equipment, renovating and upgrading the Third Street Sewer Lift Station and replacing water lines on Landfair and Aragona Drives.

Council commended staff members for their hard work in preparing the new budget. The main concern expressed after the budget overview was presented was that it included no raises for town employees.

“We have to take care of the folks who take care of us,” said Councilwoman Sabrina McCarty.

Councilwoman Janet Scheid remarked that the town needs to stay competitive with employee benefits and compensation in surrounding localities. Council and the Finance Committee will be taking another look at the issue before the budget is presented at a public hearing at the May 2 council meeting,

In other action, council issued several proclamations, one setting Arbor Day for April 13 to be held at the Vinton Library and Vinton History Museum.

Another proclaimed the first week of April to be Local Government Education Week. Council Chambers were filled with students from William Byrd High School AP and Dual Enrollment government classes who had come with instructor Andrew Thacker to learn about government on the local level.

Thompson said that town staff had been working with WBHS Principal Tammy Newcomb to reinstate a cooperative effort to incorporate local government in schools by first inviting students to council to see local government at work. Next year, they plan to expand the program by sending town staff to William Byrd and by providing a shadowing program for council and staff as part of Local Government Education Week. Students received extra credit for attending the council meeting.

Council members expressed their delight in welcoming the students to the council meeting. Mayor Brad Grose stated that he first became interested in serving in local government when he attended a council meeting when in school. McCarty said that she hoped one day that some of those students in attendance would “be up here taking our place.” Councilman Keith Liles told the students that local government has a big impact on their lives and the quality of their lives, even more so than state and federal government.

Council also adopted resolutions declaring April 4 as National Service Recognition Day and honoring members of AmeriCorps, VISTA, and Senior Corps programs who serve the community. Annette Patterson from The Advancement Foundation (TAF) introduced several volunteers now working in the Roanoke Valley as “jewels for our community.” TAF has been chosen as an intermediary for AmeriCorps for Southwest Virginia and has helped place 250 workers throughout the region.

Council went on to declare the month of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Prior to the council meeting, members of council and staff and the Vinton Police Department had joined with the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) Woman’s Club of Vinton in planting the annual Pinwheel Garden in front of the Municipal Building to promote public awareness of child abuse and domestic violence.

The week of April 9 through April 15 was declared National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week with several communications officers from the Roanoke County Emergency Communications Center recognized.

Council members also expressed their condolences to former Councilman Bobby Altice whose wife Peggy passed away on March 25. Mayor Grose described her as a “great lady.”

“Peggy served on this council and in this community for over 20 years— she just didn’t sit on the dais,” said Vice Mayor Matt Hare.