The $220 million proposed city budget for next year may present a good news-bad news situation for Manassas home owners who don’t want to pay more money to the city.
The good news: the general property tax rate will remain the same—$1.192 per $100 of assessed value. Additionally, home property values are on an uptick after a free fall at the height of the recession. Residents can also look forward to no increase in utility rates and no reduction in city staff.
The bad news: The increase in property values, along with a fire rescue tax rate levy, plus an extra three cents for the city’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) results in a proposed increase of 7.9 percent in the average real estate tax bill.
During his Fiscal Year 2014 proposed budget presentation on Monday, Manassas city manager John Budesky said council directed him in November to not increase the general property tax rate.
However he's proposing the .008 tax levy to replace the $817,000 that will be lost next year when the SAFER Fire and Rescue Grant, expires.
Council members also asked that the city’s CIP, be funded, but asked that it be considered separately from the annual budget, hence the 3-cent increase, Budesky said Monday.
The CIP, which is the city's plan for five years and beyond, includes money for upgrades to the city and the school division, he said.
View Budesky's entire budget presentation by clicking the PDF to the right of this story.
As far as the 2014 budget is concerned, Manassas City Public Schools is at the top of the list of priorities, the city manager said.
The proposed budget, which is separate from the CIP, calls for $48.8 million to be transferred to Manassas schools—$1.7 million more than what the city gave last year.
The city and the school division are in a revenue-sharing agreement that calls for 58.5 percent of revenue to go the school division.
Funding the city's schools is the largest part of the proposed budget, city staff said.
After Budesky’s budget presentation, several residents addressed city council and spoke up either in favor or against the proposed increase in real estate taxes.
Some residents said they are willing to pay more if it means a better city and better schools.
Others told council, now isn’t the time for an increase in real estate taxes. One resident said some Manassas families are already having to choose what bills to pay and which not to pay each month because money is so tight.
Sequestration and the increase in healthcare costs are already a burden; higher real estate tax payments will only make it harder, a resident said.
Monday’s meeting was the first in many meetings on the city’s budget. The final 2014 city budget won’t be approved until May 13. Meanwhile, city council members and staff will hold public meetings almost every Monday and Wednesday until that date to discuss the budget.
Look out for more articles on the city’s proposed 2014 budget this week. The next Patch story highlights the city’s plans for investing in economic development.