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Council Adopts 2004 Budget

Real estate tax rate set at 92 cents and meals tax remains at 2 percent.

In one of the quickest meetings of the year, the Fairfax City Mayor and City Council determined the budget for fiscal year 2004. In under 45 minutes, the council approved virtually all the items unanimously, including the decision to keep the meals tax rate at 2 percent and set the real estate tax rate at 92 cents per $100 assessed value.

"We did it without cutting a single service," said Fairfax mayor Rob Lederer, congratulating the City Council and staff.

Effective July 1, 2003, the adopted budget includes the following items:

*The real estate tax rate for the 2003 tax year is set at 92 cents per $100 assessed value, with 3 cents per $100 going towards the Open Space Acquisition Fund.

*The personal property tax and machinery and tools tax rate is set at $3.29 per $100 assessed value.

*The personal property tax rate for volunteer fire and volunteer rescue squad members is set at one cent per $100 assessed value.

*The amount of employee wage adjustment (cost-of-living increase) for all full-time classified employees, permanent part-time employees, the treasurer, the commissioner of revenue and the registrar is set at 2.5 percent.

*The CUE bus fare remains at 50 cents instead of the proposed increase to 75 cents.

*The meals tax remains at 2 percent instead of the proposed increase to 4 percent.

*The cigarette tax rate increases from 30 cents to 50 cents.

*A tax on mobile local telecommunication services or cell phones was adopted in the amount of 10 percent of the monthly gross charge.

*The increase in parking fine and fire code violations rates was adopted.

THE COUNCIL also unanimously passed the Capital Improvements Program for 2003-04 to 2007-08.

The only vote that didn’t pass unanimously was the ordinance adopting the cell phone tax. The tally was 5-1, with council member Jeff Greenfield voting in opposition. During the council comment portion of the meeting, council member Gary Rasmussen stated that he preferred the meals tax increase in order to offset the real estate tax rate further, while council member Scott Silverthorne preferred no taxes on cell phones. Yet both voted with the majority on those two ordinances.

In addition to setting the real estate tax rate lower than this year’s rate of 96 cents, Lederer also said the city was able to preserve funding for the Blenheim restoration, the Old Lee Highway engineering study, the Fairfax High School and Lanier Middle School renovations and the tax deferral program for seniors.

The Tuesday meeting wrapped up a budget process that began with a $1.6 million shortfall due to a misallocation by the Department of Motor Vehicles, continued with proposed tax increases and various budget revisions, and included numerous outreach meetings and public hearings

"We’re fortunate in the City of Fairfax," said Lederer after the meeting. "Our revenues are strong, our business community is strong. We held the line … and reduced the tax rate … [It’s] my most proud accomplishment in 20 years of politics."