Budget Talk

With many people seeing a downturn in the economy, and the Town of Herndon attempting to look forward to a town with a new public safety facility and a future arts center, only four members of the community spoke about the upcoming budget process. "I'm going to ask for less money," said Vine Street resident Arthur Nachman during the Feb. 12 Town Council public hearing. Members of the community had the opportunity to voice opinions and concerns regarding the upcoming proposed FY 2002-2003 annual Town of Herndon budget. "Start with a five percent decrease in every department. Assessments are up 15 to 17 percent for residents, an undue weight for homeowners, quite excessive in today's economy," said Nachman. Real estate tax assessments saw a 16 percent increase last year, said town Finance Director Mary Kemp at a council work session earlier this month. The projected property taxes, including those on residential, commercial and public service sector properties, are $7.8 million, about 32 percent of the projected town revenues of $24.3 million for FY 2003. "This takes political courage to lower the rate at least five percent across the board," said Nachman, calling for fewer studies and more action in this, an election year for the town. Nachman wanted to see the public safety center move along at a faster pace. "A safe town fosters confidence in bringing people to the community," he said. Private Funding While recognizing that the future arts center is somewhat of a sacred cow in town, Nachman hoped that more funding would come from private sources. While Nachman asked for less spending, Bowers Lane resident Sheila Olem asked for the town to contribute to two sports-related funds. One such fund supports the Capitol Challenge, a regional high school wrestling tournament. Olem asked the town to contribute $1,000 to that event. Olem's other request was for up to $5,000 for the Herndon High School weight room. "The sports boosters are trying to raise $40,000 for a better weight room and better athletes," she said. "If we keep our youth busy with sports or the arts, we're going to have a better community," said Olem, whose son Mike Olem is a Herndon High School senior and wrestling team member. On the subject of the arts, Van Buren resident Bruce Napoli, representing the non-profit Council for the Arts of Herndon, asked for continued funding from the town. "The town has been very generous in the past," he said. "We try to bring different forms of arts to the public." More Visitors Great Falls resident Eileen Curtis, president of the Herndon Dulles Chamber of Commerce, made one request representing her organization and one representing the Downtown Business Council. "The town funded a new visitors center," Curtis said. "We hope to expand its services. In the 10 months of operations, we have had over 5,000 visitors from over 40 states and over 30 countries." "We have proved viability with over 5,000 visitors. We do have a viable entity and would like to see it grow," said Curtis, who wanted to see that the Virginia Tourism Council included Herndon in its brochures. "We're going to put Herndon on the map – literally," she said. Representing the business council, Curtis requested that the Town Council create a part-time position for a revitalization coordinator for the downtown. "Understanding the economy is challenging now, the request is for a part-time position," she said, hoping to move forward the process from last April's Downtown Charrette. Curtis also pointed out two events of importance to the town – the 2003 opening of the Air and Space Museum as well as the 125th anniversary of the Town of Herndon in 2004.