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Warrenton budget would hold the line on taxes

Thursday, Apr. 3 | By Jonathan Hunley
Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Warrenton Town Manager Ken McLawhon on Thursday night presented town councilors with a $9.6 million general fund budget for the next fiscal year that holds the line on taxes and maintains current levels of service.

Property owners in the municipality would continue to pay real-estate taxes based on a rate of $0.015 per $100 of assessed value.

And McLawhon proposes no increase in personal-property taxes, utility rates or recreational fees.

His spending plan represents a $193,623, or 2.1 percent, increase over the current fiscal year.

It also includes hiring a deputy police chief for the Warrenton force.

The town has been without this position for the past 2½ years. The last person to hold it was Louis Battle, who was promoted to chief, replacing Connie Novak.

Battle said the deputy chief would be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the department, freeing him to plan for the force's future and be more of a liaison to the community.

"It's a team concept," the chief said. "They work together."

McLawhon's budget also would transfer more than $1 million from the general fund to the parks and recreation fund, which includes money for the Warrenton Aquatic and Recreation Facility.

And the plan includes $7,000 for new security cameras at the WARF.

"We take safety very seriously," the town manager said.

In addition, McLawhon proposes spending $15,350 to replace outdoor lights at the WARF as well as $20,000 to replace fitness equipment there.

Some have criticized the aquatic and rec center because Warrenton uses money from what otherwise would be budget surpluses to help pay off its construction.

But Mayor George Fitch defends the operation, saying that the town financed less of the project than a lot of other localities probably would have.

Fitch and McLawhon also note that the WARF is funded through a specific pot of money – and not through general town funds – because it is intended to be self-sufficient through fees eventually.

The town manager said he considers it important to hold the line on taxes, especially if taxpayers are facing increases in other parts of their financial lives.

The average real-estate tax bill in Fauquier is expected to rise in the next fiscal year, for example, and Warrenton property owners pay town taxes on top of what they fork over to the county.

Councilors will debate McLawhon's budget over the next few weeks, and they're slated to adopt a spending plan by the end of May or beginning of June.

The new fiscal year begins July 1.

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