Leesburg, taking a cautious approach to its finances, proposed a steady fiscal 2022 property tax rate this Tuesday night.
Town Manager Kaj Dentler unveiled a $137.6 million budget and a property tax rate of 18.4 cents per $100 of assessed value. This is the same rate the town has had since fiscal 2018.
“It’s not a very exciting, headline-grabbing budget,” Dentler said.
For the average homeowner, the proposed budget will still mean an increase in tax bills, especially since new homes are driving property assessments up by 8 percent, Dentler said.
On average, homeowners can expect to see an increase of $62, or $5.17 a month.
Leesburg residents also pay a county property tax rate, with a fiscal 2021 rate of $1.035 per $100 of assessed value.
COVID-19 hit Leesburg finances hard—with the drop in consumer taxes and other economic difficulties, the current shortfall for the fiscal 2021 budget is $5.22 million.
Dentler said that the town’s fiscal 2021 budget will balance, as this is required by law, but already it has meant sacrifices. The town froze 15 positions, deferred street maintenance, canceled events and closed facilities.
The fiscal 2022 budget has made room for three enhancements, though. One is $177,000 to continue to support the town’s popular outdoor dining program. Another is $60,000 for council and mayor office space. Dentler said this amount may vary, even costing the town nothing, depending on whether council chooses to have space in Town Hall or rent space elsewhere.
Finally, and most importantly, the town will allocate $300,000 for its emergency and inclement weather response. Leesburg used to budget for 10-12 day-long events like snowstorms, but several years ago during an economic downturn cut this amount down to two days—far too few for the average Virginia winter. Because of this, staff have had to approach council for appropriations.
To cover this season’s snow, Dentler said, staff have already spent $605,000.
“I’m focusing on snow right now, but it could be a tornado like we had…it could be any type of event,” Dentler said.
The $28.6 million Capital Improvements Budget will continue to fund multiple upcoming projects, including the police station expansion, set to begin later this year.
While council didn’t make any overt statements about Dentler’s proposed budget, at least some seemed supportive.
“You are trying to protect our ability to provide quality of life to our citizens,” Vice Mayor Fernando “Marty” Martinez said after asking Dentler why he crafted a conservative budget this term.
Council also voted Tuesday night to maintain its current personal property tax rate at $1 per $100 of assessed value for motor vehicles.
Council will hold work sessions about the budget over the next six weeks, with a public hearing set for March 9. Council is slated to vote on the final tax rate on March 23.
You can find the fiscal 2022 budget at leesburgva.gov/departments/finance/budget.