Purcellville Town Manager presents $22.4 million budget proposal

By Valerie Cury

At the March 17 Purcellville Town Council Special Meeting, Town Manager David Mekarski presented the Town’s Fiscal Year 2022 proposed budget of $22.4 million. This is a 7 percent increase over last year.

The General Fund is proposed for $11.7 million – a 1 percent increase over last year. For Parks and Rec, $607,000 is proposed. 

For the Water Fund, $3.1 million is proposed, with a recommended 3 percent rate increase. For the Waste Water Fund, $3.9 million is proposed, at a 5 percent rate increase. The Town has simplified its rate structure from a 17 to a four-tier fee structure for the Utility Fund.

The Capital Improvements Fund is projected at $3.784 million, a 134 percent increase. 

Tax rates 

Mekarski is proposing the same property tax rate as last year at 22 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Residential property assessments were higher this year by 5.69 percent; so if the proposed tax rate were equalized the rate should be 21 ½ cents. The proposed tax rate of 22 cents is a 2.28 percent increase over last year.

For now, Mekarski has proposed to leave the number of full-time staff at 85. He is asking for a 3 percent increase for staff pay/salary enhancements – which would not go out to everyone.

Council Member Stan Milan said, “You also mentioned in the budget a pay raise for staff and management. I feel we have to be a little sensitive with that, because a lot of our citizens have lost jobs …  or their pay reduced. Citizens, he continued: “are not feeling the benefit of their salary increasing.”

Utility rates 

Mekarski noted that the utility rate increases are based on the recommendations from Stantec, the Town’s utility rate consultant.

Council Member Chris Bertaut said he has been following the Stantec studies and how they determine “our utility rates.” 

Bertaut explained that the Stantec study applies a certain model. Town staff will now have access to the model, and can put in more relevant information to generate multiple and different outcomes. It “is based on a lot of input and in many cases very conservative assumptions that we have been whittling away at in order to come up with the best possible scenarios for utility rate increases for the Town’s residents.”

Bertaut said that one of the assumptions had all of the Town’s Capital Improvement Programs being funded with cash. “Now,” he said, “we are looking at a lot of innovative financing solutions including a way to use USDA loans.” There is also COVID relief funding that could go to certain projects.

Chargebacks 

On the subject of chargebacks – time spent by employees working from the General Fund for tasks involving the Utility Fund, “I still have some issues with this,” Bertaut said. He noted that there would be greater accountability “if the General Fund staff who were charging back their time, were doing so on a ticketed basis – just as the Utility Fund staff have to do with their day-to-day activities.” He said that, this way, Council would have “a far better idea of whether we are charging back the appropriate amount or not.”

Milan said he wanted a way to track the chargebacks. “We need to know what the chargebacks are; why are we using them so much? It went from $500,000 to $1 million. Why is there an increase?”

As of press time, the public hearing for the budget is set for April 13, with scheduled budget workshop meetings in April and May, as needed. The budget will be adopted either on May 11, or June 16.

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