Leesburg town manager proposes flat tax rate, meaning slight hike in tax bills

Kaj Dentler

In his initial fiscal 2020 budget presentation this week, Leesburg Town Manager Kaj Dentler proposed a 1-cent property tax increase to cover public safety and IT enhancements.

“We’re growing. We’re not the small town that we used to be,” Dentler said. “The enhancements that I’m presenting … do provide direct and indirect services to all of our residents and visitors.”

Dentler’s proposed budget of $138.5 million, including a $47 million Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) budget, would take a quarter of its revenue from property taxes.

For fiscal 2019, Leesburg residents paid 18.4 cents per $100 of assessed value. Additionally, Leesburg residents pay a county property tax rate, which is currently $1.085 per $100 in assessed value.

The 19.4-cent rate would bring the town an increase of $797,000 in revenue.

The increase on citizens’ tax bills would be an average of $100 for single-family homes with a value of $515,000. For the overall average Leesburg residence valued at $393,000 – including both townhomes and single-family homes – the increase would be about $72.

According to Dentler, council could cover as-is budget expenses for fiscal 2020 without raising taxes. Given the town’s growth, though, Dentler would like to add several employees.

At the top of his list are five police officers, including three new patrol officers; one youth services coordinator, a position that was nixed last budget season; and one special investigations detective for opioid and gang issues. He would also recommend creating positions for an emergency management director and an IT systems administrator to guard against cyber threats.

A new expense will be an additional $300,000 in Leesburg’s recycling contract because of a worldwide increase in costs.

Dentler recommended a cut of more than $150,000 to fire and rescue because Loudoun County recently decided to take responsibility for company funding. The additional dollars from Leesburg counter-intuitively reduces its companies’ share of county funds, he said.

“We’re really double-taxing our residents,” Dentler said.

The CIP budget for 2020 will cover 21 projects, including the police station expansion and roadwork on the East Market and Battlefield and Battlefield and Route 15 exchanges.

Council refrained from commenting on Dentler’s presentation until future budget discussions, agreeing unanimously to schedule a vote for March 26. It did vote to maintain personal property tax rates of $1 per $100 assessed value for cars for fiscal 2020.

Interested citizens can voice their opinions at council public hearings on March 12 and 26 and explore the budget at leesburgva.gov/budget.

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