Board Opens Budget Discussion

Board Opens Budget Discussion

In an action originally not on the agenda, the Board of Supervisors began its discussion on the fiscal year 2008 tax rate following an action item presented by Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run).

At the board's Tuesday, June 20, meeting, Staton put forth an action item to have the board direct County Administrator Kirby Bowers to advertise a tax rate before creating next year's proposed budget.

"I felt we should be giving more instruction to the county administrator up front, so when he is preparing the budget he has more of idea where the budget should go," Staton said.

In his motion, Staton proposed setting the tax rate for fiscal year 2008 at 89 cents, which is the current tax rate for fiscal year 2007.

"We have the opportunity to send a message to all of Loudoun County that we are not going to raise your taxes next year," he said.

Staton's proposal received mixed reactions from other supervisors, many of who support lowering taxes for the citizens but could not support setting a tax rate so early.

"There are too many unknowns," Supervisor Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) said. "There are not enough variables on the table for me to support 89 cents. Not that I wouldn't as we move down the path."

"I understand what [Supervisor Staton] is trying accomplish and I don't know that I don't agree with him," Supervisor Jim Clem (R-Leesburg) said. "In principle when I look at this I would like to see things level off, but I don't have enough information about what is going to happen next year."

Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) said he would be more comfortable giving the county administrator general guidelines as to what the board would like to see in next year's budget, but could not support setting a specific tax rate.

"If we take Mr. Staton's word as true, we will be using the same amount of tax revenue to support the residents currently living here and those that will be moving to the county," he said. "This is too narrow and it is too arbitrary of a tax rate."

In the end, the board voted to forward Staton's motion to the board's finance committee for further discussion, agreeing that it was time they dealt with the budget in advance.

"It is time we had an earlier dialogue," Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) said. "I think it is a very timely discussion to get the information we need, so we can make the right votes, at the right time, in the order their needed."

Staton, however, was not pleased at the board's unwillingness to take decisive action.

"It is fascinating to see the level of enthusiasm for setting the limit and the lack of enthusiasm for actually setting the limit," he said.

THE BOARD VOTED to enter into a franchise agreement with Verizon Virginia Inc. that would allow the company to provide cable television services to county residents. Verizon already provides both broadband and telephone service to Loudoun.

Currently, Adelphia Communication Corporation is the major cable television provider in the county. The addition of Verizon will create the first countywide competition between providers.

"I look forward to having a competition and you guys perform a good service, there is no question," Board Chairman Scott K. York (I-At large) told Verizon representatives.

As a part of the franchise agreement, Verizon agreed to participate in the Cable TV & Open Video System Commission, which fields customer complaints.

The franchise agreement is partly the result of a new state law that takes affect July 1, which will greatly limit the provisions of cable television franchises.

Supervisors cautioned Verizon representatives, however, stating the company needs to follow good business practices and respond to customer complaints.

"The state put us in the position of if we don't act we will be in a worse situation," Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) said. "If I have to get on the phone and call you every day because of the complaints I received from residents, this will not be a happy supervisor."

Tulloch told the company's eight representatives that there were already problems in Sterling and Cascades where Verizon had dug up roads and not restored them to their former condition.

"Don't be so involved in your Verizon company that you are not hearing what we are saying to you," he said. "We have issues and you are not even here yet. We are just asking you to be the company that you told the commonwealth you would be."

IN ITS ONLY residential development item, supervisors voted 7-1-1 to approve the Towns of Belmont Ridge. York opposed the application and Supervisor Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin) was absent for the vote.

Originally, the proposed development would have allowed for the creation of 40 attached, single-family houses on 10 acres. However, the final approved proposal lowered the total houses for a density of 2.9 units per acre. In addition, the houses will be 36 feet wide as opposed to the standard width of 22 feet.

Waters said she felt the larger width of the homes made a large difference and will provide some different architecture to the county.

"The applicant also agreed to increase the per unit contribution for transportation improvements to $64 per unit," Waters said. "Because of these changes, I am in support of this application."

Although a majority of the supervisors supported the application and its amendments, some felt it was important for the board to consider affordable housing.

"As we go forward in the future I really think we need to come together as a group and really determine what we want for workforce housing and affordable dwelling units," Snow said. "You can't deny the quality [of these homes], but I am just wondering if we can do more."

Following the vote, Burton said he did not believe that affordable housing was possible under the current process.

"I don't believe we are ever going to get workforce housing through the rezoning process," he said, referring to the high density needed.

He added that subsidizing "is the only way we are going to be able to get affordable housing to the people."