At the council meeting held March 9th, Town Manager Marc Verniel gave an overview of the budget. You can go to www.blacksburg.gov to see the review in its entirety. Also, here is a link to the budget in its entirety. Click on Recommended Operating Budget FY2010-11 and it will open the PDF.

The total budget is about $49.5 million dollars. Half of this amount is the general fund which supports our every day services and operations.

From a revenue standpoint, there continues a structural change in where we our revenue originates. In this budget real estate tax represents 21.5 % of our revenue. When I started on council in 1996 real estate taxes represented just 16% of revenue. Most of this increase in percentage has been driven by cuts in other areas, particularly state revenue to localities. It is important to note that this budget does not include a tax increase.

We are looking at cuts that impact services as little as possible. Some areas of savings discussed include cuts to some of our Capital Improvement Projects, combine the About Town and Recreator publications, extend the useful life of our fleet of vehicles, cut fourth of July Music but not fireworks. This budget also freezes two vacant positions in town bringing the total to 9.5 positions frozen since we started dealing with the economic slowdown. Again, this means our staff is doing more with less people.

One other area that council will have to look at is our contributions to outside agencies. It is hard to do this because all our outside agencies provide services that make our area special. But, in these times, everything must be considered.

Here are some examples of reductions from the state. Support for police has been cut about $200,000 and Highway Maintenance at $160,000 over two years. These are significant cuts.

If you notice in today’s Roanoke Times there is an article outlining concerns expressed by elected officials in the Roanoke Valley. These concerns are real. Richard Flora, Roanoke County Supervisor, was quoted as saying “We’ve all heard (the state) they’re not going to raise taxes. They’re not going to raise taxes. The bottom line is they are raising taxes, They’re doing it indirectly. They’re not doing it directly in Richmond, but forcing localities to raise taxes just to meet the mandated funding requirement the state has put on us.”

There is a great deal of truth to this statement, especially at the city and county level where there are many more state mandates.

The public hearing for the budget is set for April 13th and the vote for April 27th. This gives council time to consider comments from the public on the budget.

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