The town of New Market is moving forward with a proposed budget for fiscal year 2020-21 that features some alterations brought on by the financial strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Town Manager Todd Walters said on Monday that the budget, which totals $8.17 million, includes projected revenues from certain local taxes – including meals and transient occupancy taxes – that are about 17% less than what they were on earlier versions of the FY21 budget, which Walters added affects the town’s revenues “quite a bit.”
During a budget work session with the Town Council last week, New Market Treasurer Teresa Green noted that in order to anticipate what impact the statewide shutdowns that were put in place in response to the pandemic would have on the town’s tax revenues, she took the amount of money the town collected in meals and transient occupancy taxes in May and used that as a baseline to estimate those revenues for the first six months of the upcoming fiscal year (July-December). For the second half of FY21 beginning in January, Green said her estimates reflect a more normalized stream of revenue from those taxes.
Walters said during the work session that town administrators hope they’re projecting the “worst of the worst-case” in regard to those first-half tax revenue estimations and added that the amount of money the town collected from those taxes last month wasn’t as low as he thought they’d be.
Walters stated during last week’s work session and reiterated again on Monday that the plan is to revisit and potentially amend the 2020-21 budget at the end of the calendar year.
“I guess it did affect us some,” Walters said of the financial repercussions of COVID-19, “but we’re hoping things turn around and then we’ll come back at the end of the calendar year and hopefully be able to amend the budget.”
Though Walters said no “major” capital projects were cut from the new budget, he said a proposed 3% percent salary increase for town employees was eliminated for the time being, as was a loan the town considered taking out to replace some equipment and purchase two police cars. Walters noted during last week’s work session that both of those items could be added back onto the budget when the town revisits it at the start of 2021.
New Market’s proposed budget still includes the new water tower project and the sidewalk project along Route 211, according to Walters. He noted that the latter project was kept in place because the town is awaiting word on a possible grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation that would cover half of the $350,000 budgeted for the project. If New Market were to receive that grant, something the town likely won’t know until after the Town Council approves the budget, Walters said the town would be required to move forward with the project.
Walters added that if the town does not receive the VDOT grant, that $175,000 likely would be cut from the budget.
He noted that outside of a proposed $5 increase in trash collection fees (the town is entering a new contract with Waste Management for those services on July 1), which would raise the monthly rate to $16, there are no increases on any other fees or taxes on the proposed FY21 budget.
“With that (trash collection fee) increase, that does not cover our garbage,” Walters told Town Council members during last week’s work session. “We’re up against two things. Of course our garbage is costing us more to pick up, but the county also raised the tipping fee by 20% starting July 1.”
Walters added that when taking into account the amount of refuse the town takes to the landfill, Shenandoah County’s increased tipping fees – a price paid per ton of trash dumped at the landfill – would result in about a $5,000 annual increase for New Market just in garbage alone.
Walters told Town Council members during last week’s work session that a public hearing on the proposed budget would be held during the council’s regular monthly meeting on June 15. Town Council members will vote on the budget’s approval at a special-called meeting on June 22, Walters added.