Front Royal adds amendments, OKs first budget reading

FRONT ROYAL – Council members voted on the first reading of the town’s 2016-2017 budget on Monday after discussing some final amendments.

As submitted for the first reading, Front Royal’s 2016-2017 budget of $45.78 million is about 3.5 percent larger than the current year’s budget. No taxes would be increased, but certain monthly solid waste rates would increase anywhere from 35 cents for residents with a 96 gallon can to $60 for commercial dumpsters emptied two times a week.

Two residents came forward during the public correspondence part of the Monday night’s meeting to speak about the video cameras that were installed and later removed from the gazebo area downtown.

Anthony D’Andrea presented council a petition signed by 102 residents who ask that the “unwarranted surveillance system” not be reinstalled.

“In no way does this undermine anything that our devoted officers do,” he added.

Roger Keys spoke in support of the cameras, saying that taking the cameras down was “the biggest mistake this council has made in a long time.”

“I have talked to business people along Main Street and I’ve talked with dozens of residents and I have yet to hear one agree with your move of taking those cameras down,” he said. “Some of the people I’ve talked to [are] more than a little upset.”

Mike McCool voiced his concerns on the budget, saying it’s “still heavy with fat,” and council should be cutting things out. He also called for further support for the growth and support of local businesses and the local economy.

After hearing reports and updates from Town Manager Steve Burke, County Administrator Doug Stanley and Mayor Timothy Darr, council unanimously agreed to remove an agenda item to approve installation of “No Thru Traffic” signs on Massie Street and 1st Street.

Councilman John Connolly proposed removing the item and said council should review options for regulating and calming traffic on those roads for a vote sometime later this month.

Council passed the following amendments to the budget:

  • Reduction of the highway maintenance budget’s machinery and equipment line item by $25,000 to remove acquisition of a mill head that was acquired this budget year.
  • Removal of $10,800 budgeted to reclassify the Clerk of Council position to full time. Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger said the council doesn’t need the clerk to serve full time hours.
  • A redistribution of $82,500 from the PILOT line item to funding for the community development director position.
  • Rather than including a cost of living adjustment of $1 per hour for each employee in the coming fiscal year, the budget will include a $2,000 December bonus. Many council members supporting the bonus said that the town should have a more specific method of calculating pay increases by factoring in performance, cost of living or competitiveness.
  • Council unanimously approved an amendment that moves $24,000 budgeted for a new vehicle for the IT Department to instead hire a consultant to conduct a salary study. The remaining $1,000 budgeted for that line item would be used to improve a fleet vehicle for use.
  • Removing salary adjustment funds of $2,500 for the IT director, $7,000 for the assistant town attorney and $1,500 for the legal assistant.

Failed budget amendments included:

  • A motion to remove $55,000 from the water maintenance budget and $55,000 from the sewer maintenance budget to purchase a mini excavator for the Water & Sewer Maintenance Division.
  • Reduction of the police patrol budget’s overtime line item by $23,400. A movement by Egger did not get a second.
  • Removing $4,000 for the salary adjustment of the town attorney.

Council then voted 5-1 to approve the appropriation ordinance for the budget on its first reading. Councilman Eugene Tewalt was the only council member to vote no, saying council could cut up to about $900,000 of expenses that the town could do without. He said the budget was fat and not sustainable.

“I think we need to run a budget as we do our homes, and I think right now we’re overspending money,” he said.

Council will vote again on the 2016-2017 budget with the passed amendments at its meeting at 7 p.m. June 27.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com