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Flat real estate tax rate, new paid family leave policy proposed in Vienna budget

Vienna Town Hall (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) Vienna officials have released a proposed budget that maintains the town’s current real estate tax rate, despite continued economic challenges from inflation and supply chain issues.

The $53.8 million budget for fiscal year 2025, which starts July 1, holds the tax rate at $0.1950 per $100 of assessed value. Combined with a cumulative 3-cent reduction over the previous three years, the town will have cut its tax rate by 14% since 2021, Town Manager Mercury Payton said in a message to Mayor Linda Colbert and the town council.

However, residential property owners can still expect higher bills, thanks to rising home values. Residential properties assessed at over $1 million — the average for a second year — now make up 36.4% of all homes, exceeding their 29.9% share last year and the 26.7% of homes valued at $500,000 to $800,000 this year.

“Real estate taxes have increased due to increasing assessments, as Vienna is a very desirable place to live,” Payton said in the budget proposal. “The average residential tax bill is estimated at $2,204, a 6.5 percent increase over last year, due to a 7.0 percent increase in assessed value of existing (no growth) properties.”

Strong returns on cash deposits, sales taxes and business license fees will help fund a $3.7 million, or 7.5%, increase in the budget compared to fiscal year 2024. Most of that will cover increased costs related to water and sewer needs and borrowing.

The town anticipates borrowing $1.55 million for 22 new vehicles, including four police cars, three police motorcycles, one dump truck, pickup trucks, a tractor, a mower and two trailers.

“Economic trends in inflation and supply chain difficulties continue and are leading to pressure on expenditures without a commensurate increase in revenue,” Payton wrote, noting that meals tax collections have been flat through the middle of FY 2024.

Still, Vienna is projecting a $554,000, or 7.6%, increase overall in local tax revenue — fueled by business
licenses and sales taxes — and parks and recreation fees are expected to go up by $259,000 or 19.7%.

Priorities addressed by the proposed budget include compensation increases totaling 4% for general employees and 5.5% for sworn police officers, which “will assist with…recruitment and retention pressures.”

Starting on July 1, the town will implement new child and family care leave policies for employees who have become new parents or need to care for an immediate family member.

Employees who’ve worked for Vienna for at least 12 months will get six weeks of paid leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted or fostered child, or to get pregnancy-related medical care. The family care leave policy offers up to two weeks or 80 hours of paid time off so employees can care for a sick or injured family member.

Identified as a top priorty of the town council in a Jan. 22 work session, the new leave policies don’t have a direct cost, but they “may result in slight increases in overtime to cover positions utilizing the leave,” according to the proposed budget.

The town created the leave policies as an acknowledgment of how difficult it can be for workers to balance a full-time job and a new kids, medical issues and other family demands, Payton said in a statement to FFXnow.

“The Town of Vienna is committed to fostering a supportive and flexible work environment by giving employees the time, space, and resources they need to address these life-altering situations and return to work when they are ready and able to give full attention to their job responsibilities,” Payton said.

The budget also allocates $75,000 for a full-time information technology staff position to support the Vienna Police Department and approximately $50,000 to give police officers a $2 per hour or monthly bonus for working midnight shifts.

“Just about all neighboring jurisdictions have some form of shift differential or specialty pay. This ranges from $1.00 an hour to a monthly bonus program of $360 net,” the budget says. “We currently have several officers on midnight shifts that would rather be on day shifts, [so] this would be an incentive for the inconvenience of working all night.”

The town council discussed the proposed budget on Monday (March 11) and will hold another work session on Saturday (March 16) before advertising the budget and property tax and sewer rates on March 21.

Public hearings will be held on April 8 and 29, and the budget is slated for adoption on May 20.

“This proposed budget is based on direction from the Town Council 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, new initiatives and council priorities, and provides continued support for day-to-day operations in all Town departments.”

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