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Vienna Town Council approves larger tax rate reduction than first proposed

Vienna Town Hall (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Town of Vienna will reduce its real estate tax rate by a full cent for the upcoming fiscal year 2024, which begins July 1.

Approved unanimously by the town council on Monday (April 24), the reduction is bigger than the quarter-cent decrease first proposed by Town Manager Mercury Payton last month, but it still won’t be enough to completely counterbalance the rising property values most homeowners experienced this year.

The new tax rate of 19.5 cents per $100 of assessed value represents the 11th consecutive year where the town has adopted a flat or reduced rate compared to the previous year, according to a press release.

“While that rate doesn’t quite equalize everyone, it does help account for the increase in assessments,” Vienna Finance Director Marion Serfass told the town council. “…As homeowners in Vienna, we’re all pleased to know our houses are increasing in value. We’re not quite so pleased to pay increased taxes on them, but this lowering of the tax rate will offset that somewhat.”

On average, real estate assessments in Vienna increased by 10% this year, Mayor Linda Colbert said in the press release.

According to Colbert, the town council asked staff to revisit their financial forecasts to see if it would be possible to “to reduce that burden on taxpayers.”

“Thanks to conservative budgeting, no increase in health insurance rates for Town staff and an increase in other revenues reported later in the budget process, the finance staff determined that Vienna could further reduce the tax rate in the proposed budget and still operate at high standards,” Colbert said.

When presenting his proposed $50.1 million budget in March, Payton said the town anticipated getting increased revenue from business licenses, meals and sales taxes and interest rates, enabling it to address inflation and employee compensation.

Though the one-cent real estate tax rate reduction won’t stop many residents from getting higher bills, it will lower the average increase while allowing the town to maintain a rainy day fund with over 18% of the next year’s budget, the town says.

“We don’t want to be in a position where we cut the tax rate too far,” Serfass said. “We’re all worried about storms on the horizon. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, so we’re trying to be conservative.”

The proposed budget, which adds one staff position each in the public works and planning departments, is scheduled to go before the town council for a final vote on May 15.

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