Already strengthened by an increasing commercial tax base, Purcellville is evaluating untapped revenue opportunities in everything from its massive water treatment facilities to a 60 sq ft abandoned pump station to as it begins its 2018 Fiscal Year budget process.
As part of a Green Box Initiative, the town is looking through every parcel, asset and piece of property it owns to come up with new revenue streams. Analyzing everything from sales, leases, grants and literally dozens of other options, the town believes it can generate potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars, with some revenue streams beginning as early as this upcoming fiscal year.
The Green Box initiative comes as the Council is working on Purcellville’s $20 million FY18 budget, which goes into effect July 1, 2017. Council members have several more budget meetings scheduled through the spring and will set the new tax rate on April 12.
This is the first budget cycle since three new council members took office within in the seven-person body in July 2016 and these projects will help define the town’s financial direction for the duration of their terms.
“This is really going to be a hallmark of this council’s tenure by looking at these alternatives,” said Town Manager Robert Lohr.
Members and staff have spent two years collecting property information and mining it for new opportunities. There are already 24 locations with about 120 revenue-generating opportunities, like allowing sponsorship for its downtown gazebo or putting a communications tower on its wastewater treatment plant.
“If you’re able to get a cellular lease on a vacant property you’re saving for future use, or for green space or buffering, then you’re generating hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in a cellular lease that isn’t costing the tax payers anything and is bringing in revenue to the system,” Lohr said.
The town already generated $300,000 in revenue by a parcel to the Good Sheppard Alliance, a group that provides shelter and support for the homeless and it currently in the process of leasing another parcel to Makersmiths Studios.
“I believe all our communities can benefit,” said council member Kelli Grim while discussing the Green Box initiatives during a council meeting March 30.
These programs are among the highlights of Lohr’s proposed FY18 budget. While keeping the town’s real estate rate flat at $0.22 per $100 of assessed value, Purcellville’s strong financial position will allow for close to $100,000 in spending increases from last year’s general fund budget. The town’s business license tax increased 11.8 percent from last year, sales tax increased 7.5 percent and meals tax grew 4 percent, becoming the town’s second-largest source of revenue behind the real estate taxes.
As the budget now stands, Lohr has proposed three new positions, including a full time patrol officer for the Purcellville Police Department and a maintenance worker. The town will also look to add a part-time human resources worker to assist the current full-time specialist already on staff.
It also includes funding to develop a long-term fiscal impact model for further town development, continued business attraction and retention activities and updates to the Board of Architectural Review Guidelines for the town.
While the council has more leeway to make amendments in its general fund, it is locked into maintaining reliable water service for its residents. With the town’s drinking water and wastewater services taking up around $10 million, or about half, of the town’s entire yearly budget, keeping water rates low is a major concern for town officials.
Purcellville, with less than 10,000 residents, is responsible for providing water to its residents without the economies of scale of a larger locality like Leesburg, which has five times as many residents, or Loudoun Water, which serves more than 220,000 customers.
The town already charges more for larger users, which Lohr said has deterred more business and restaurants from locating there. The upcoming budget also plans to charge 7 percent more year over year to provide for future infrastructure improvements and operating costs. Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser said the Council is looking to mitigate these increasing charges through alternate revenue sources, including the Green Box initiatives.
“The utility fund is the heavy hitter,” Fraser said after the March 30 budget meeting. “It’s not good for our residents especially our senior residents to see a 7 percent increase year over year. Many seniors are on fixed incomes, so we need to take that into consideration. The budget this council is going to propose will not see a 7 percent increase, I believe.”