Strasburg budget unlikely to change before council meeting

STRASBURG – With the deadline for Town Council to finalize its budget approaching Tuesday, the odds of changing any of the expected tax increases are dwindling.

As it stands, the 2016-2017 budget will feature tax hikes in the market of 1 percent on meals, 1 percent on lodging and $1 per month for utility rates.

Town Council held a public hearing for citizens to voice their opinions on the budget Monday. At the meeting, several restaurant owners and citizens spoke out against the meals tax.

Strasburg Councilman Don Le Vine said he met with Randall Hamman, owner of Hangouts Grill who is opposing the meal tax, after the hearing to discuss the tax and an avenue forward. The two are meeting again Monday, though Le Vine said the likelihood of a last-minute change is low.

“I think he would have a difficult task to make a change because in order to fill that money, we would need to have a work session to fill the deficit that money was set to fill,” Le Vine said. “It’s not impossible, but it’s going to be very difficult to make a change.”

Councilman and soon-to-be Mayor Rich Orndorff Jr. said he is meeting with Hamman over the weekend as well, and agreed the odds of change are not promising.

Hamman said he’s not necessarily expecting to affect change with the meetings, but he wants a better understanding of why the increases are being put in place. He added the budget is too vague, and residents need a louder voice in its formation and a clearer explanation of different line items.

“The change I’m looking for is to see the budget that gives citizens an idea of why we’re going to raise a tax, and where our money is going when we do,” Hamman said.

Speaking on the matter, Councilwoman Jocelyn Vena said council is unlikely to change the budget, and she likely wouldn’t vote for a change if it came to that point. She said the council added the meals tax because it needed the money to operate. While it’s possible that the tax could be scrapped in the back half of the year, it’s needed at the moment, and a change is unlikely.

She added that council decided the meals tax would have less of an impact on the town than raising real estate or property taxes.

“The meals tax was just the one that impacted the least amount of people while giving us what we needed for the shortfall,” Vena said.

Although she’s in favor, Vena said she understands the implications of a tax raise and said she doesn’t place her vote lightly.

Town Council meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to approve the 2016-2017 budget, and the meeting is open to the public.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com