By Katie Demeria
FRONT ROYAL -- The Front Royal Town Council on Monday voted to approve an increase to real estate taxes for the 2015 fiscal year.
The new tax rate of 13 cents per $100 represents an increase of two cents to the current tax rate.
Those additional funds will be used to finance the town's new police department headquarters and the construction of the Leach Run Parkway.
The council also voted to include a sunset clause, which would revert the taxes back to their original rates once the debts from those two projects are paid.
The sunset clause would go into effect unless future councils voted to abolish it. It applies directly to the two cent increase -- even if taxes increase in the future, the sunset clause would lower the rate only be two cents, it would not set it back to the current rate.
Both councilmen Thomas Sayre and Daryl Funk voted against the increase.
There was some argument over the state of the council's budget. In arguing against the tax increase, Sayre said the council would be able to afford both projects with its current available funds by taking out bonds on the money currently available.
Sayers also mentioned ways in which he believed the town could decrease the costs of the two projects, including funding from Virginia for the Leach Run Parkway and a grant to help support the police department.
He brought up various budget adjustments made throughout the last fiscal year, claiming that "these are just examples the town is in good financial condition."
He said the additional funds from an increase to real estate tax "clearly aren't necessary."
Councilmen Bret Hrbek and Eugene Tewalt said the funds to which Sayers referred were not available.
Hrbek questioned a $2 million surplus Sayers had mentioned, and Tewalt pointed out that the amount of money available, which Sayers had suggested could fund the projects, is not as much as would be expected.
"$900,000 isn't a whole lot of money guys, so if you want to keep a fund you've got to be able to supply money into the fund, or you're going to deplete it and you won't have anything," Tewalt told the council.
He also suggested, in the future, the council be more restrictive with its funds, saying they spend too much on certain items throughout the year without questioning how it will impact the total budget.
"If we operated our home the way we operate the town sometime, we'd all be broke," he said.
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org