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June 13, 2018

Warrenton adopts record budget of $34.2 million

Sean Polster (At-large) and Jerry Wood (Ward 1) opposed the budget.
Nothing was spent for 14 years. I think we’ve been very cautious with our money.
— Councilwoman Linda “Sunny” Reynolds
2019 Budget Highlights
• Cigarette tax up a nickel to 20 cents a pack.

•  WARF fees up 5 percent.

• 4 new staff positions, costing $275,000.

• 1- to 3-percent water and sewer rate increase.

• 10-percent reduction in Professional and Business/Personal Services tax rates, reducing revenue by $87,000.

• $12.4 million on water and sewer improvements.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Two council members voted against the largest budget in Warrenton history Tuesday night.

By a 5-2 margin, the council approved the fiscal 2019 budget.

Sean Polster (At-large) and Jerry Wood (Ward 1) opposed the $34.2-million spending plan because of its reliance on cash reserves. The new budget represents an increase of 16.3 percent from this year’s $27.9 million.

The plan will take $2.1 million from the town’s reserves for water and sewer, leaving $162,000.

Funded mostly with long-term debt, Warrenton will spend $12.4 million on deferred water and sewer improvements in the fiscal year that starts July 1. That includes a $9.4-million project at the wastewater treatment plant on Frost Avenue.

“I was elected to be a judicious and responsible custodian of taxpayers’ dollars,” Mr. Polster said. “Right now, we have three years of budgets that show the opposite . . . acting in a way that solves the needs and desires of right now without considering the real impact it will have strategically on our businesses and citizens.”

Mr. Wood said: “This is definitely a spending budget . . . . I see no substantial new income for the town in the next two to five years.”

But, in her final meeting, Linda “Sunny” Reynolds (At-large) took her two colleagues to task.

“I think it’s almost unpresidential to vote against the budget,” Ms. Reynolds said. “We had six or seven work sessions where we hammered this out.

“I remember very well four years ago . . . we were extremely understaffed, our police vehicles were very old,” she added. “Nothing was spent for 14 years. I think we’ve been very cautious with our money.”

To balance the 2018-19 budget, the council raised several fees.

A pack of cigarettes will cost 5 cents more in Warrenton as of July 1. Fees at the Warrenton Aquatic and Recreation Facility will rise 5 percent, and water and sewer fees will increase 1 to 3 percent.

The budget also reduces business license fees 10 percent, reducing revenue an estimated $87,000.

The budget includes funding for four new full-time positions: A human resources manager, a stormwater management director, a historic preservation planner and a planning staff clerk (expanding from part-time).

Several council members also questioned doubling the contribution to $40,000 for Experience Old Town Warrenton, the Main Street program.

Bob Kravetz (Ward 4) suggested giving the organization $20,000 in July and the balance in January after receiving fundraising and finance reports. But, the suggestion failed on a 4-3 vote, with Mr. Polster and Mr. Wood also supporting it.

“No doubt, the organization has been doing an excellent job,” Mr. Kravetz said. “But, it’s difficult for (citizens) to see how they would benefit from this.”

Ms. Reynolds, a member of the EOTW board, disagreed: “If Old Town fails, the whole town is going to fail. This organization has filled two empty stores by meeting with property owners . . . . Give us some seed money and let us go . . . . Don’t cut us off at the knees.”

Town Manager Brannon Godfrey, who drafted the budget, also serves on the EOTW board.

As part of the budget, the council also approved the 2019-24 Capital Improvements Program totaling $50.9 million. Of that, $15.6 million would get spent in fiscal 2019.

In other matters Tuesday night, the town council voted:

•  7-0, to approve the special use permit and rezoning for Lindsay Buick-GMC. The dealership on West Shirley Avenue plans a major renovation and expansion.

•  7-0, to approve an incentive package — worth $39,000 over three years — for redevelopment of property on East Lee Street to house Restaurant Violette.

•  7-0, to extend sewer outside the corporate limits for Appleton Campbell, a plumbing and HVAC company, to build a new headquarters on four acres along Alwington Boulevard near Home Depot. The company will pay approximately $81,000 for the connection — three times the in-town rate.

•  5-2, to approve a special use permit for a second beer garden at EOTW’s 1st Friday events. Mr. Polster and Mr. Wood opposed the permit.

•  7-0, to grant the Allegro Community School for the Arts a special event permit to conduct a series of concerts on Culpeper Street, with one in Eva Walker Park, starting July 7 and running through Aug. 18. Allegro will succeed the Bluemont Concert Series, which folded this year.

FY2019 Proposed Budget by Fauquier Now on Scribd

Warrenton Fiscal 2019 Proposed Budget Updated May 2018 by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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martinkus · June 16, 2018 at 12:46 pm
Well stated David Norden! We sorely miss you on Town Council! As for "Sunny," enjoy your retirement and "thank you" for fulfilling your original campaign promise of filling all of the vacant store fronts in Warrenton (you did squat!).
David Norden · June 15, 2018 at 4:40 pm
For Sunny Reynolds to say "I think we have been very cautious with our money" is utterly ridiculous! First, it's the taxpayer's money and on her watch real estate taxes have gone up 233% with zero increase in benefits to the citizens, sewer and water rates have nearly doubled, and WARF fees have increased every year to the point where some families may no longer be able to afford to bring their children there to swim.
To suggest nothing was spent over the previous 14 years is equally ridiculous. During that time, while reducing real estate taxes by 80% without laying off any employees or changing any of the programs that benefit citizens like trash, recycling, leaf, and debris pick-up and police protection, we built WARF for the citizens. We were also one of the first in the State to upgrade the sewer plant to meet the new DEQ standards and upgraded the water plant to a capacity of 3.4 million gallons per day just 7 years ago. We also had a regular program of vehicle replacement. I should also add that we did all of this while also getting the town through the worst recession in history.
The $12.5 million sewer and water capital expenditure in this budget is just a bone thrown to the developers who funded Sunny's campaigns to try to get them extra capacity at our expense. And to dip so severely into the town's reserves is even worse. Thank you to Mr. Polster and Mr. Wood for standing up to this fleecing of the taxpayers and shame on the rest of you who approved this budget.
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