By Sally Voth -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- The town has begun its annual budget process.
Town Manager Judson Rex presented a fiscal 2013 budget preview to the Town Council during a work session on Tuesday night.
The process actually began in November following a Town Council and staff retreat, according to a memorandum from Rex to the panel.
The council's consensus at the retreat was to leave tax increases "alone for now," maintain town services if possible, not to spend large amounts of money on the Brill property, and begin the project of building sidewalks to Food Lion, the memo says.
Other priorities include repairing or replacing the leaking roof at Town Hall, having multiple budget scenarios available and attempting to find a way to pay for about $10 million in long-term capital needs.
Councilman Scott Terndrup brought up leaving tax rates alone if the town receives the same amount of state funding as it has in fiscal 2012.
"But, if there's a dramatic reduction in state funding, I don't think we can afford to simply take this off the table," he said.
Councilman Rich Orndorff, who said a possible reduction in road maintenance funds could be "catastrophic," said Terndrup made a good point, but noted the memo says the panel wished to leave increases "alone for now."
"I think that leaves the door open," Orndorff said.
Raising taxes is a last resort, he said.
Councilman John "Red" Hall said maintaining the current high level of service "sounds good, but what services could we eliminate?"
Councilman Bob Baker asked if putting in a sidewalk on U.S. 11 to help pedestrians get to Food Lion is realistic.
"The more I go by some of those properties the less likely it appears to me that we're going to be able to put a sidewalk to Food Lion," he said.
Some of the buildings are right up against the road, Baker said. He said the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission is studying a modified public transportation system.
"That makes a lot more sense than putting a sidewalk to Food Lion," Baker said.
Rex agreed there are logistical difficulties with the sidewalk project, which is why it's being proposed in phases. Councilwoman Sarah Mauck agreed the project is a priority, especially on the parts of U.S. 11 with speed limits of 35-45 mph.
Regarding the Town Hall's roof, Terndrup questioned the logic of replacing it before expanding the building. Rex said the roof was a more immediate need.
The panel has previously discussed converting the two Brill properties -- a former grocery and a taxi stand -- neighboring the Town Hall into new Town Council chambers.