This year’s Proposed FY2018/2019 Budget represents a balanced budget. The purpose of this budget is to plan necessary operating and capital expenditures for the next fiscal year and to vision for the Town’s future while meeting Council’s and citizen’s expectations and servicing the Town’s debt. Quality community services such as police, public works, fire and EMS, special programs, War Memorial facility, planning and financial services will continue to be offered at a reasonable cost.
The current rate of $0.07 per $100 on real estate tax and $1.00 per $100 on personal property tax is unchanged. The meals tax continues to be a strong revenue source for the Town and is estimated to generate $1,026,000. This stable revenue source is reflective of the value our restaurants are able to offer their customers. We are optimistic that this revenue source will maintain at this level or may actually increase more with several downtown restaurants keeping later evening hours and new ones opening.
In reviewing the town’s business license tax ordinance, staff is recommending that the Ordinance be updated to align with surrounding jurisdictions in the Roanoke Valley. The anticipated impact of the change to the General Fund Revenues would be approximately $55,000. Based on a case by case analysis, several small businesses will see a reduction when they renew their business license at the beginning of January 2019. The largest impact will be in the professional category. The cigarette tax rate of $.25 is unchanged and with the Proposed FY 2018/2019 budget we are estimating this revenue source to generate approximately $165,000.
The Town completed implementation of the $700,000 Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Block Grant in December of 2016 that focused on four key areas of the Downton improvements and initiatives to include: (1) streetscape and fixture improvements, (2) business storefront and facade improvements, (3) branding and marketing collateral, and (4) a revolving loan fund to support business development.
In 2017, the Town began two new initiatives to continue the revitalization momentum by focusing on downtown housing rehabilitation and the redevelopment planning for targeted underutilized commercial properties.
Housing: The Town was awarded a $3,000 pre-planning grant from DHCD to conduct a housing assessment of three downtown neighborhoods. The purpose of this exercise was to identify and rank current housing conditions and to engage with community stakeholders to confirm that conditions existed and resources were available to develop a redevelopment plan for housing rehabilitation. In early 2018, the Town was subsequently awarded a second $30,000 grant from DHCD to continue with the initial plan development, with the intent to apply for future grant funding for construction and implementation.
Commercial: Working with the Virginia Brownfields Assistance Fund (VABF) and the Department of Environmental Equality (DEQ), the Town was awarded a $50,000 grant to conduct a Phase I and Phase II Environmental Study at Gish’s Mill. The Town also undertook a Redevelopment Feasibility Study for the property that included a historical inventory, a physical assessment and the development of three conceptual design options. In addition, the Town submitted a $300,000 grant application with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to review environmental conditions at other “brownfield” sites throughout the community. If successful, the EPA grant could lead to additional funding that could be used for conceptual planning and/or site cleanup.
The Town of Vinton continues to work independently and collectively with other local and regional partners to pursue a variety of economic development activities to expand and diversify the local economy.
Key areas of focus for the Town are to place continued emphasis on “In-Fill” and “Up-Fill” development by targeting underutilized properties to market for new business ventures. While this approach primarily addresses the issue of the Town being essentially landlocked and with few large parcels of undeveloped space to actively market, this approach also can prove to be financially beneficial to the prospective developer or business owner looking to expand.
Due to many underutilized properties already having utilities, necessary zoning and existing infrastructure needs, those assets coupled with attractive local and historic tax incentives can often be a more affordable solution. These options also provide a quicker turn-around for being open for business as opposed to an entirely new construction build.
In partnership with Roanoke County, Vinton is realizing success in these strategies with the recent progress towards the conversion of the former Roland E. Cook School and former William Byrd High School as apartments and the redevelopment of the former Vinton Library as a full service Macado’s Restaurant.
In addition, likely development of the former Vinton Motors Dealership, River Park Shopping Center and the Gish Mill Property prove that the Town is primed to continue to take advantage of this approach into the foreseeable future.
The Town elected to separate the grant funding and expenditures into a separate fund due to the volume and dollar value of the grants being awarded to the town over the past two years. This fund will assist the Finance Department with tracking to ensure that grant funds are being used to the greatest benefit of the town. For reporting purposes, this will be a component of the General Fund.
The maintenance, operations, and investment in our water and sewer system are a fundamental government service. We have recognized the significant needs in our aging utility system and diligently work to keep it functioning. However, in the upcoming 10-15 years, significant investment will be required to replace water and sewer lines, pump stations, and equipment.
A comprehensive rate structure analysis was presented to Council in January 2013. Council adopted as part of the FY 2013/2014 Budget an 8.7% water and sewer rate increase. As part of the Cost of Service Study an 8.9% rate increase in water and sewer rates was approved for both FY 2014/15 and FY 2015/16 which provided funding for infrastructure needs, capital needs and reserve funds needed in the Utility Fund. At the direction of the Finance Committee, staff will be working on a rate analysis for a potential increase in the water and sewer rates.
In the Proposed FY 2018/2019 budget expenditures were identified in the general fund and utility fund relating to stormwater and they were transferred to a separate fund in FY2016-2017. This has assisted staff and Council in knowing the dollar amounts associated with the costs of stormwater management in order to make a sound decision on a future stormwater utility fee in the Town. Funding is needed to ensure that Town will continue to stay in compliance with the stormwater permits requirements and the additional Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) Action Plans requirements. The Proposed FY 2018/2019 has funding to provide analysis and recommendations to Council to implement a stormwater fee dedicated to achieve capital storm water projects, water quality improvements, and increased maintenance of stormwater infrastructure.
With this budget, we have provided the same level of service to our citizens with minimal impact to the Town employees. In this budget, one position is recommended to be eliminated and two positions are recommended to remain unfunded during the budget year. In this proposed budget, town Staff was unable to include adjustments to employee pay. The Proposed FY 2018/2019 budget also recognizes economic development initiatives throughout the Town which will create synergy and bring continued growth to our Vinton economy. Through this budget, we will continue to make Vinton the “IN” place to live, eat, work and play.