The Vienna Town Council, split over whether to re-advertise a higher real estate tax rate to finance some of the town government’s unmet needs, voted 4-3 to stay on schedule and approve the proposed fiscal year 2017 budget on May 23.

Council members Carey Sienicki, Howard Springsteen and Tara Voigt voted against the May 23 adoption date, saying Town Manager Mercury Payton’s proposal to hold the town’s real estate tax rate at 22.5 cents per $100 assessed valuation might preclude obtaining more money for town staff and projects such as a municipal parking garage.

Not opening the window to such possibilities may mean “we’re shutting the door on some important things,” Sienicki said.  

But a slim majority of other Town Council members said town residents likely will pay more already because of higher assessments, and also may be pinched financially by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which is considering a real estate tax hike this year of up to 4 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. If approved, that maximum rate would cost the average county homeowner about $304 more this year.

Advertising requirements also would have pushed a delayed budget decision into June, close to the July 1 start of the new fiscal year, they said.

Vienna’s annual budget public hearings only occasionally draw speakers, but this year’s featured commentary from two challengers who are running in the May 3 Vienna Town Council election.

One contender, Pastor Craig Burns of Vienna Assembly of God Church, pressed for a laundry list of items, ranging from a skate park and bike lanes to higher pay for Council members and town employees.

The other challenger, Vienna Planning Commission member Douglas Noble, requested that the town hold a design charrette for the community, provide better pavement marking, produce a forward-looking information-technology plan and provide tax incentives to retain small businesses in Vienna.

Citing a minimum requirement of 30 days for advertising, the Council also unanimously deferred a planned April 18 public hearing on the real estate tax rate to May 9.

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