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Vienna proposes real estate tax rate reduction in new budget, but resident bills will still jump up

Town of Vienna sign by the W&OD Trail (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Town of Vienna intends to lower its real estate tax rate for a third consecutive year, as home values continue to soar.

Released on Monday (March 6), the town’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023-2024 — which will begin on July 1 — cuts the real estate tax rate by a quarter of a cent, decreasing it to 20 cents per $100 of a property’s assessed value.

If the proposal is approved, the town will have reduced its property tax rate by 2.25 cents — or 11% — during the pandemic. Cuts were also approved last year and in 2021, which had represented the first rate decrease since 2013.

Even with the quarter-cent rate reduction, however, Vienna homeowners should brace for a big jump in their tax bills.

“The average residential tax bill is estimated at $2,041, an 8.6 percent increase over last year, due to a 10.0 percent increase in assessed value of existing…properties,” Town Manager Mercury Payton said in his budget proposal. “The increase in commercial and residential assessments generates a revenue increase of $884,000 after the real estate tax rate reduction.”

Calculated annually by Fairfax County, this year’s real estate assessments found that the average value of residential properties in Vienna is now slightly over $1 million, with the biggest group falling in the $500,000 to $800,000 range. Residential properties valued at over $1 million, including a few that exceeded $3 million, make up 29.9% of the town’s properties.

With increased revenue also reported from business licenses and the meals and sales taxes, the proposed budget totals $50.1 million — an increase of $1.4 million or 2.9% from the current budget.

Those funds will be used to increase compensation for town employees by 5%, with sworn public safety workers getting an additional 0.5% step increase. The increases are partly intended to assist with rising costs due to inflation, which hit a 40-year high last fiscal year.

Payton has also proposed continuing to offer a $2,000 signing bonus to commercial licensed drivers, an incentive introduced last year to address staffing shortages in the public works department.

“The program is budgeted at $65,000 in the general fund, and has already had a positive impact in recruiting and retaining qualified drivers,” Payton wrote.

The budget adds two full-time staff positions: a senior compliance officer in planning and zoning, and a civil and capital project engineer, who will help manage infrastructure and sidewalk projects while also reviewing single-family housing and commercial redevelopment applications.

To cover some of the salary increases and increased water purchase and sewer treatment costs, the budget proposes increasing water and sewer rates by 10%, raising service charges for residents from $32.80 per quarter to $35.00 per quarter.

The average customer’s bill would go up by $20.25 per quarter, or $80 a year.

“This proposed budget is based on direction from the Town Council early in the process and recommendations from the staff budget committee over the course of the last few months,” Payton said in a news release. “The result is a legally balanced proposed budget that addresses priority operational concerns, and provides continued support for day-to-day operations in all Town departments.”

The Vienna Town Council will discuss the proposed budget in conference sessions on Saturday (March 11) and Monday (March 13) before advertising the package, including tax rates, on March 23. Public hearings are set for April 10 and 24, with a final vote coming on May 15.

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