Herndon The Herndon Town Council voted to adopt its fiscal year 2018 budget of $51,181,877 on Tuesday, April 25. The vote was unanimous, excluding Councilmember Signe Friedrichs who was absent from the meeting and did not vote.
Under the budget, the town’s total revenues will drop 7.8 percent from the 2017 budget, which earned $55,486,261. Despite this decline, the budget does not call for raising taxes on residents.
Before the vote, the council gave the public another chance to comment on both the proposed tax rates and the budget, which were voted on separately with the same unanimous approval.
No one from the public testified about the tax rates.
“I’m pleased to be able to say that since I’ve served on council since 2010, we’ve never raised the real estate tax rate, which is pretty remarkable,” Mayor Lisa Merkel said during the hearing. “I don’t know how long it’s sustainable, but somehow we are continuing to be very wise with your tax dollars and spending them wisely. So, you know if there ever is a proposed raise in the tax rate, you’ll know that it’s definitely warranted. It’s not something that we take lightly.”
THREE MEMBERS of the public testified on the budget.
Justine Klena, the principal of Herndon Middle School, testified in favor of the allocation of funding in the budget to hire a new school resource officer (SRO) from the Herndon Police Department for her school and the high school.
“I’m very much in support of having a Herndon Police Officer in our school and shared with the high school. I’ve also spoken with Liz Noto [principal of Herndon High School] who was also very encouraged by this idea,” Klena said.
The schools have a Fairfax County Police Department SRO already, but she advocated for adding another from the town’s police force, saying he or she would be able to support the school better by having a stronger connection with the students whose families may already be involved in situations with the Herndon Police Department, which has jurisdiction within the town.
Richard Downer also testified on behalf of the Herndon Historical Society where he is a board member, to encourage the council to fund the organization with one of its discretionary community grants.
A total of $203,425 of cash and in-kind funding for fiscal year 2018 was approved for the town’s community grants. The 12 organizations receiving the donations include:
Herndon Community Television, $97,000
NextStop Theater, $45,000
Friday Night Live, *$15,000
Herndon Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association, $2,000
Herndon Environmental Network, $2,500
Herndon High School Parent-Student-Teacher Association, $5,000 ($4,000 In-Kind)
Herndon High School Band Parents Association, $500
Kids at Hope Herndon, $3,000
Herndon Village Network, Inc., $3,000
Herndon Hospitality Association – Jam Brew, $4,500 ($4,000 In-Kind)
Herndon Historical Society, $925
Arts Herndon, $45,000
Kids R First, $3,000
Michael O’Reilly, president of Arts Herndon, made a plea for his organization. O’Reilly also stated Arts Herndon’s interest in the proposed downtown redevelopment and new Arts Center that is expected to begin construction in the summer of 2018, when the town completes negotiations with the developer, Comstock Partners.
On Friday, April 14, the town issued a request for proposals seeking bids from nonprofit arts organizations within 25 miles of the location to operate, manage and conduct arts programming in its future downtown Arts Center.
FUNDING for the redevelopment was not included in the budget since negotiations are still ongoing. However, funding will need to be considered as a budget adjustment, which requires the approval of town council.
This adjustment is expected in July.
O’Reilly also addressed the potential conflict of interest that Councilmember Friedrichs had with the Arts Center negotiations as executive director of Arts Herndon.
“I think you all know our executive director has removed any conflicts that she might have had between being on council and being executive director by submitting her resignation. We’re terribly sorry to see her go, although she’s agreed to volunteer with us on an as-needed basis as we move forward and begin our search for a new executive director.”
Other capital projects were also approved in the budget in the allocation of the town’s Capital Improvement Program.
The CIP is a portion of the town's annual budget that outlines the town's anticipated public improvements. It is a six-year plan for the acquisition, development, enhancement or replacement of public facilities. The CIP also details the various funding sources that will pay for each project.
The budget for the proposed CIP for fiscal years 2018-2023 totals nearly $7 million, with an additional $4.2 million for capital projects in the town’s Enterprise Funds, which are standalone funds separate from the General Fund.
The town’s complete budget will be posted online at www.herndon-va.gov by July 1.