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Council OKs Smaller Budget

Allocation of skate park funds, increased sewer and water rates among approvals.

Herndon’s Town Council passed its first budget in at least 10 years that allows for less total expenditures than the previous year’s adopted budget when they unanimously accepted a plan to spend just over $42 million over the course of the next fiscal year at its May 8 public hearing.

The town-imposed real estate tax rate will stay at 24 cents per $100 of assessed value, but average residential tax payments will increase about $30 from last year’s final bill as residential real estate assessments have increased about 2.6 percent, according to Herndon Town Council and Fairfax County figures. The increased assessments will leave the average resident with a bill of about $975, according to town figures.

Among other items, the council approved allocating additional funding into the Department of Public Works street repairs program as well as street improvements to Herndon’s Historic Preservation District along Pearl and Spring Streets. The plan also includes allocating $150,000 in parks department proffer money for the construction of a skate park in the coming fiscal year.

The budget, passed 6–0, will go into effect July 1 of this year. Council member Bill Tirrell was not present for the approval, as he was out of the country on business.

The passing of the smaller budget, which was mostly characterized by a limited capital improvement program, was a victory for a Town Council that largely ran as fiscal conservatives during last year’s election, said Herndon Mayor Steve DeBenedittis.

"We really wanted to minimize the impact on our homeowners," DeBenedittis said. "[Home] assessments have gone up so much in recent years, double digits in some cases, and we wanted to limit the impact from that as much as possible."

THE BUDGET WAS amended by Vice Mayor Dennis Husch during the Tuesday night hearing when the council unanimously approved his proposal to increase funding to the Department of Public Works’ street maintenance fund from $225,000 to $250,000. That change was joined with an increase to a town grant to local non-profit organization Kids at Hope Herndon from $2,500 to $5,000 and to $50,000 in additional planning funds for improvements to streets and to prevent flooding in Herndon’s Historical Preservation District between Pearl and Spring Streets.

The changes, which were suggested to Husch prior to the meeting by council member Bill Tirrell, were made to reinforce some of the Town Council’s priorities, Husch said.

"One of the things the Town Council should be doing is making sure that streets are being taken care of," Tirrell said in a phone interview. "So let’s make sure they have what they need to get the job done."

Another part of doing that is to draft plans to reconstruct roadways in the town’s often flood-soaked Historical Preservation District, an item that will see more than double in recommended funds next fiscal year.

"We want to make sure that the public works department is positioned with the right plans in place so we can implement the design and solve their drainage problems" in the next few years, said Husch.

Additional funding for Kids at Hope Herndon, a local group that encourages positive reinforcement and encouragement in people who work with children, was granted because of its highly efficient ability to benefit the community, Husch added. The group received a $1,000 grant from the town last year, according to Kids at Hope Herndon coordinator Catherine Pressler.

"They have got a great track record and when you find something like that, you’re always good to help them out," Husch said. "It’ll be beneficial to the whole community, and how can you go wrong with that?"

THE MINIMIZED BUDGET is just what residents expressed a desire for and owes thanks to the hard work of the budget team, consistent of interim town manager Art Anselene, human resources director Linda Simmons and finance director Mary Tuohy, said DeBenedittis.

"The people seem glad, we’re minimizing the impact on homeowners and focusing on where are priorities are," he said. "I think we ended up with a real good budget."

Council member Charlie Waddell agreed.

"Going back to the elections, there are a number of folks out there who said they didn’t like seeing the big ticket items," he said. "They want their trash picked up and police on the streets … just a very status quo level of spending."