Vienna Town Manager Proposes FY2014 Budget

Vienna Town Manager Mercury Payton has served on the job since 2011.

Fiscal 2021 is only two months old, but the Vienna town government already is predicting a six-figure reduction in revenues, compared with initial projections.

The town’s general-fund revenues had been on a steady upswing in recent years, because of the then-thriving economy. Revenues were about $24.5 million for fiscal 2018 and $25.3 million for fiscal 2019, but only rose by about $27,000 in fiscal 2020 because of the pandemic – and governmentally induced shutdowns – that took effect in mid-March this year.

The Vienna Town Council this spring adopted a more conservative budget, with general-fund revenue projected to be only $24.8 million, but recently revised that figure downward to $23.9 million.

As of Aug. 31, projected revenue losses for the new fiscal year that began July 1 stood at $180,890, officials said at the Council’s Sept. 14 meeting.

Very low interest rates have led officials to project a revenue loss of $99,258 from the use of money and property.

The next biggest projected loss is $62,587 in parks-and-recreation fees. Officials initially projected $580,000 in such revenues for fiscal 2021, but since have lowered that estimate to $517,413. That amount would be less than half the nearly $1.07 million collected in fiscal 2019.

Officials also predict permits and other zoning charges will dip by $11,590 and other local taxes will decline by $13,718.

There still are so some bright spots in the revenue picture, however. Property taxes account for 49.6 percent of Vienna’s general-fund revenues and officials expect that category to bring in an additional $37,356 in fiscal 2021.

Officials expect the town to collect $1.85 million in business-license-tax revenues, which is up 2.2 percent over initial projections but far lower than the $2.39 million brought in during fiscal 2019, the last year not affected by the pandemic.

One crucial revenue source for the town is the meals tax, which finances Vienna’s capital-improvement fund. The town collected nearly $2.83 million in fiscal 2019 and saw that total drop to almost $2.49 million in pandemic-affected fiscal 2020. Vienna officials set a far lower estimate of about $1.45 million in meals-tax revenues for fiscal 2021, but as restaurants adapted with enhanced takeout offerings and outdoor table service, the town upgraded the estimated take to $2.05 million, or 17.6 percent lower than fiscal 2020’s total.

“Restaurants have done a wonderful job of adjusting to the pandemic situation,” said Finance Director Marion Serfass.

Council member Howard Springsteen worried that restaurants would be able to do less outdoor business once colder weather arrives. Serfass said Natalie Monkou, the town’s economic-development manager, is examining ways to obtain outdoor heaters to assist local dining establishments.

The town government has implemented a “soft” hiring freeze to keep expenses down during the crisis, but still is trying to fill some crucial positions in the police and public-works departments, said Town Manager Mercury Payton.

“We’re trying to maintain a core level of services that our residents expect,” he said.

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