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Vienna Council Unveils 2004 Proposed Budget

Property tax goes down by one-half cent.

Members of the Vienna Town Council began their first discussions of the proposed 2004 town budget Saturday, as the town faces rising personnel costs and decreasing revenue from the state. Included in the proposal is a decrease in the real estate property tax by one-half cent from 28.5 cents to 28 cents, and an increase water and sewer rates.

The total percentage increase in expenditures between the proposed 2004 budget and the 2003 budget is .81 percent. While general fund expenditures and water and sewer expenditures are expected to increase, a reduction in debt service expenditures will offset those increases.

"Because of a larger decrease this year in proposed debt service...overall, our total budget has increased by 1 percent," said town manager John Schoeberlein during Saturday's work session.

Meanwhile, General Fund revenues could increase by almost $875,000, with 64 percent or $554,000 coming from higher proposed real estate tax collections. Residential property assessments rose 16.63 percent this year, with residential property accounting for 77.9 percent of the total taxable assessed valuation in Vienna, according to Schoeberlein's budget message to the council.

RATE CHANGES in the proposed budget include:

*A real estate property tax rate of 28 cents per $100 assessed value. Because of rising real estate assessments, the average Vienna homeowner could see an increase of approximately $98.69 in their annual real estate tax bill.

*An increase in water and sewer fund rates. This increase, the first in five years, is due to rising costs by the City of Falls Church, Vienna's supplier. Both in-town and out-of-town rates for water are proposed to increase 27 cents per 1,000 gallons of water. The in-town rate could increase from $2.44 to $2.71, while the out-of-town rate could increase from $2.82 to $3.09. Sewer rates are proposed to increase 23 cents, from $3.16 to $3.39 for both in-town and out-of-town rates.

*The cigarette tax may raise from 30 cents to 50 cents a pack to help pay for capital improvement projects. The potential revenue from this increase would be $152,600.

"Overall, the outside sources of funding are continuing to decline," said councilwoman Laurie Cole after the meeting. The real estate property tax rate is "obviously a concern because people are going to feel that...that's something we've got to work with."

Vienna citizens may review the budget in the Administrative Services office in Town Hall, 127 Center St., S, and at the Patrick Henry Library, 101 Maple Ave., E. A "Budget in Brief" summary may also be obtained free of charge at Town Hall, as well as the entire budget for a nominal charge. For more information, call 703-255-6350.

The Town Council will hold a public hearing on the budget on May 12, with final budget adoption on June 2.