Reston, VA

Metro is seeking feedback on its proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

The proposal includes expanded service hours and fare increases during peak service hours. Some suggestions under consideration include:

  • Metro will close at midnight Monday through Thursday and stay open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday
  • Metrobus customers who pay or load their SmarTrip card with cash will pay $0.25 more per trip
  • A flat fare on weekends that will be “simple” and “easy-to-remember,” according to Metro
  • Elimination of low-ridership routes for Metrobus

Metro users can complete an online survey and provide comments. Open houses are also planned in Arlington, New Carrollton, and the District.

The proposed budget is available online.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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The Herndon Town Council wants community members to provide feedback on the proposed budget at its fourth annual roundtable event later this month.

People with ideas for the fiscal year 2021 budget are invited to gather at the Herndon Municipal Center (777 Lynn Street) on Saturday (Feb. 29) from 9-11 a.m., according to the town’s website.

The budget must be adopted by June 20, according to a press release, which added that the budget will include upcoming programs, ideas for the town and community priorities.

“This is a chance for council members and citizens to engage in an informal way, outside of the public hearing forum,” the press release said.

Anyone with specific questions can email the town manager.

Photo via Herndon Town Council/Facebook

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Early next week, Town of Herndon residents have the chance to share their opinions on the upcoming budget for the Fiscal Year 2021.

The public hearing will take place on Tuesday (Feb. 11) at 7 p.m. at the Mary Ingram Council Chambers (765 Lynn Street). Residents can speak their minds on matters regarding programs and services that the budget supports, according to a press release.

“As we consider resource allocation for the next fiscal year, we encourage citizens to share with us their views on programs and services that are most important to them,” Lisa Merkel, the town’s mayor, said.

Anyone who cannot attend in person may also submit feedback online.

A draft of the budget is expected to be delivered to the town council by April 1, according to the press release, which added other public hearings will be held on April 14 and 28.

Image via Town of Herndon

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The Reston Association recently made several key edits to the draft of the 2020-2022 strategic plan, which is up for final approval on Thursday (Dec. 19).

Potential changes in the plan, drafted in November, include:

  • working with Fairfax County officials to ensure developments align with the Reston Master Plan
  • hosting more public forums to discuss land use and strategize with the community
  • increasing community leadership and RA’s public reputation
  • adjusting the association’s budget plans

RA CEO Hank Lynch will present the latest draft of the strategic plan, which is currently available online, before the final vote by the RA this week.

The draft addresses concerns about efficient and productive land use around Reston.

A section of the strategic plan said that the “RA will be actively engaged in the continuous land-use development process in Reston.”

By 2022, operation costs for the Reston Association are expected to rise to $17.9 million, but revenues are expected to increase proportionally by 2.5% as well, according to RA documents.

In 2019, the RA made $300,o00 more than expected, according to the documents.

“When revenues exceed plan and expenses are below budget, it is an indicator of a well-managed organization,” according to the documents. “Reston Association is such an organization.”

When polled by the RA, 73% of community members said they either considered the organization to be good or excellent, while 13% ranked the condition as poor.

A list of proposed goals included several ways that the association could improve public opinion — including the integration of more public forums.

The RA Board will vote to finalize the matter at its meeting on Thursday (Dec. 19) at 12001 Sunrise Valley Drive beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Data in graph via Reston Association

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The Reston Association is set to hold a final public hearing for the Reston 2020-2021 budget next week.

The meeting will take place at RA Head Quarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive) beginning at 6:30 p.m. next Thursday (Nov. 21) and will be a chance for community members to share their concerns and grievances with the RA Board of Directors before they vote on the budget.

In 2020, Reston is expected to roughly raise $19 million in revenue with the operating budget, and operating costs are only expected to add up to $16 million, leaving a $3 million surplus, according to RA documents.

“Through these meetings, the board identifies revenues and expenses that should be added or eliminated based on the association’s strategic goals,” according to the RA website.

Photo via Reston Association

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Reston Association’s Board of Directors and its fiscal committee will meet later this month to discuss the first draft of the 2020-2021 budget.

The meeting, which is open to the public, is set for August 21 at RA headquarters (12000 Sunrise Valley Drive) at 6:30 p.m.

The budget process kicked off on May 23 when the board adopted the budget development calendar.

Later this month, RA’s staff will incorporate changes made to the budget from the meeting to form the second draft of the budget.

A public hearing on the second draft is set for September 26. The budget will be formally approved on November 21.

Photo via Reston Association/YouTube

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Reston Community Center’s Board of Governors is holding its annual public hearing on programs and budget next week.

The meeting is set for Monday, June 17 at 6:30 p.m. at RCC Hunters Woods (2310 Colts Neck Road).

During the meeting, the public will get a glimpse of RCC’s plans for the future and highlights and challenges over the past year.

Attendees will also receive the center’s annual report and strategic plan for 2016-2021.

A nine-month renovation of the Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center is underway. The 40-year-old center will get two pools — a 25-year lap pool with zero-depth entry and a warm-water therapeutic pool — along with a new roof.

The renovated facility is set to reopen in October.

RSVPs are requested by emailing [email protected] by Friday, June 15. Attendees should include their full name and address.

RCC is governed by a nine-member board appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Selections are based on the preferences of residents and businesses in Small District 5, which the center serves.

File photo

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The Town of Herndon’s 1.25 percent increase in its meal tax has generated some backlash from local residents — prompting Town of Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel to clarify why the tax was increased from 2.5 to 3.75 percent last week.

In a statement on Saturday (April 27), Merkel said the increase was necessary to cover an unexpected $1 million shortfall in revenue from business professional occupancy license taxes. The estimated price tag for several capital projects also spiked, she said.

The increase could bring around $900,000 in revenue to cover funding for road projects, hiring an assistant town attorney, parks and recreation events, and connecting crosswalks that are unsafe and not ADA-compliant, Merkel said.

“I know raising taxes isn’t popular and it is not a vote that I took lightly,” she said. “If you go back and look at all the discussions, staff reports and PowerPoints, you will that it was not a flippant decision.”

Merkel said her nine years of experience on the council demonstrates that raising taxes is not a go-to approach. Ultimately, the move could generate cost savings, Merkel said. The town currently outsources legal work that the town attorney cannot take on at a high rate, she said.

“With Metro and the growth we are facing in the area the town is dealing with many more complicated legal issues than in decades past when we were a much sleepier little town,” she said.

Merkel’s entire statement is below:

Tuesday night the Council voted to pass our FY2020 budget. For the first time in many years the council raised the meals tax by 1.25%. I understand that many do not favor this decision and I want you to know that I certainly did not make the decision lightly. I think my record on council for the past nine years demonstrates that I am not someone who looks immediately to raising taxes whenever there’s a tough budget before us, so I hope you’ll read along to see my reasoning for my vote supporting this increase.

The additional revenue generated will be funding road projects for the most part. The town suffered a very unexpected $1million shortfall in BPOL (Business Professional Occupancy License taxes) revenue this budget cycle, and several road projects that have been in the CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) for years have had a significant increase in their estimated costs. After a lot of grappling our Town Manager suggested a 1 cent meals tax increase to offset the difference (1 cent meals tax is approximately $900k of revenue.) BPOL is paid mostly by people who do not reside in the town (it is business professional occupancy license fees and is based on gross receipts of the business, the larger the business, the larger the fee. Most of our Herndon businesses are 10 employees or fewer, so you can surmise that a very large company is the reason behind this loss of BPOL revenue) Meals tax is also paid mostly by people who do not live in the town, but use our roads, police, etc. Herndon is an employment center where more than 17,000 people come to work every day, and the biggest portion of our meals tax comes from the M-F lunch crowd.

It was NOT an easy decision for me. The additional .25 that was added was a result of trying to cover some unfunded priorities that were important to the town – some parks and rec events related to the farmers market and family fun days and connecting some sidewalks and completing crosswalks that are currently unsafe and some that are not ADA compliant.

It will also allow us to hire an assistant town attorney which will ultimately save the town money because now we are outsourcing some legal work that the Town Attorney cannot take on, and that is at a MUCH higher hourly rate. With Metro and the growth we are facing in the area the town is dealing with many more complicated legal issues than in decades past when we were a much sleepier little town.

I know raising taxes isn’t popular and it is not a vote that I took lightly. If you go back and look at all the discussions, staff reports and PowerPoints you will see that it was not a flippant decision. Honestly, without the $1million dollar BPOL shortfall I would have likely voted against this increase, because it wouldn’t have been necessary. And I do support the projects these monies will fund. Which is ultimately why I decided to support it.

I understand that not everyone is happy with the meals tax increase; that’s just how these things go. I will still be supporting our local Herndon restaurants because this is home, and I love our local restaurant scene. Did you know that restaurants receive a 6% rebate for remitting the meals taxes they collect on our behalf on time? (This is a fairly typical practice in the commonwealth) and the large majority take advantage of this.

Please remember that since 2010 Herndon’s real estate tax RATE has not increased. In fact we decreased it once in 2011. Every single surrounding jurisdiction has raised their RE rate multiple times during that time frame, even as assessments have increased. I am proud of the fact that Herndon has worked to not put our property owners in that situation.

If you’ve read this entire post, Thank you. If you would like additional information on the discussions and reasons behind this difficult decision I’d be happy to hear from you and share more of my perspective. Thanks again for joining me in caring about our hometown. 

Photo via Town of Herndon

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The Herndon Town Council adopted a $53.9 million budget this week for fiscal year 2020, representing a 10.4 percent decrease over last year’s budget.

Although real estate taxes were unchanged this year, the town’s meals tax increased from 2.5 to 3.75 percent — a move that town officials said was necessary to fund capital improvements, the Herndon Police Department’s operations, an assistant town attorney position, and restoration of parks and recreation programs.

Fiscal year 2020’s recurring expenditures increased by 2.2 percent over last year from $35.2 million to $36.3 million. Overall, expenditures increased nearly 3 percent over last year.

Other taxes like the cigarette tax and business professional and occupational license tax remained unchanged. The water service rate increased from $5.87 in FY 2019 to $6.19 per 1,000 gallons of water consumption in FY 2020.

Recycling fees doubled from $16 to $32 per year. Personnel costs also increased by $805,359 over last year, totaling nearly $28.1 million of the overall budget.

Town officials said that this year’s budget continues to prioritize Metro planning, downtown redevelopment, the efficiency of town operations and capital improvements.

“We appreciate everyone who called, emailed, and provided in-person comments throughout the budget deliberation process,” said Mayor Lisa Merkel. “The newly-adopted budget funds the programs and service our citizens have told us are important to them.”

The next fiscal year runs from July 1 of this year to June 30, 2020.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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The Town of Herndon revealed its proposed budget today (April 1) along with publicizing two public hearing dates to receive feedback.

Totaling a little more than $53 million, Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget is a 10.9 percent decrease from the adopted FY 2019 budget, according to a press release from the Town of Herndon.

“In a ‘status quo’ economic environment, the proposed FY 2020 Budget funds Town Council priorities, such as the redevelopment of Herndon’s downtown as well as continued planning for the coming of Metrorail,” Ashton said in the press release.  “It also recommends continuation of the services and programs our citizens expect and enjoy.”

The town’s FY 2020 begins on July 1 and runs through June 2020.

Here is a quick overview of the proposed budget:

  • real estate tax, personal property tax rate and cigarette tax remain the same
  • town’s meal plan increases from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent
  • motor vehicle license fee remains at $25 for private passenger and other vehicles weighing less than 4,000 pounds and $32 for ones weighing more than 4,000 pounds
  • sewer service rate increases from $5.78 to $6.19
  • sewer and water availability fees for new, single-family homes and sewer lateral repair and replacement program remain the same
  • water service rate increases from $3.06 to $3.16
  • recycling fee increases from $16 per year to $32 per year

The public hearings are set for April 9 and April 23 — both Tuesdays — and will start at 7 p.m. in the Ingram Council Chambers (765 Lynn Street). In addition to the hearings, locals can submit feedback online.

Residents and businesses in Herndon can expect to receive a guide to the budget mailed to them.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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At his last meeting as the president of the Reston Association’s Board of Directors, Andy Sigle shared the changes he has seen in the past year and his proudest accomplishments as the association’s leader.

Sigle first joined the board in 2011 and was elected as the president last year.

“When I began the term this past spring, things were in a little bit of a tumult,” Sigle said at last night’s meeting (March 21). “We were without a permanent CEO. The CFO had recently resigned. The board was in a big transition.”

Bringing stability and positivity to the association were his personal goals as the board’s president, he said. “I think we have done that and thank you.”

Sigle shared his top three accomplishments:

  • co-leading the charge against a proposed density increase for the Planned Residential Community (PRC)
  • passing the RA’s budget
  • hiring the new Chief Executive Officer Hank Lynch

The new board is set to select its new president after the elections for five uncontested seats end in early April.

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This month marks the beginning of Fairfax County’s fiscal year 2020 budget process. Locals in the Hunter Mill District can attend a town hall in Herndon on the first Saturday of March to get more information on the proposed budget plan.

Projections expect the county’s revenue to grow by 2.9 percent, generating more than $156 million in additional revenue for FY 2020, according to the county.

The town hall is set to take place from 8:30-11 a.m. on March 2 at Frying Pan Farm Park Visitor Center (2709 West Ox Road).

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, County Executive Bryan Hill and Fairfax County Public Schools staff will give the presentations, according to Hudgins’ newsletter.

After coffee and a conversation starting at 8:30 a.m., the elected officials and county staff will be available to answer questions.

The next steps in the budget process include posting the proposed tax rates, followed by public hearings in April held by the county’s Board of Supervisors.

The FY 2020 fiscal year begins on July 1.

Image via Fairfax County

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Updated at 8:55 a.m. — Corrects Outback Steakhouse location.

The Herndon Town Council and two of its boards held work sessions this week, taking up proposals for a new restaurant building, a massive mixed-use development and more.

Possibly soliciting public comment during the development of the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2020 was discussed at a Town Council work session on Tuesday (Feb. 5). The Town Council is set to take up the resolution next week on Feb. 12.

That same work session also held a public hearing on a comprehensive plan amendment for plans to revamp the South Elden area.

The Architectural Review Board on Wednesday (Feb. 6) discussed plans for a new Outback Steakhouse. (There’s one currently at 150 Elden Street.) The plan calls for a new 6,525-square-foot single-story commercial building and 82 parking spaces on an undeveloped site with 1.46 acres across from the Herndon Centre.

The board also continued the conversation about Penzance Properties’ redevelopment project, which would add three buildings in three phases at 555 Herndon Parkway.

The Planning Commission and Architectural Review Board previously provided dozens of suggestions and areas that needed improvement for the project, which is the first of its kind for Herndon. The Planning Commission will continue its consideration of the development plan at its public hearing set for Feb. 25.

Penzance’s redevelopment isn’t the only proposal that has hit some snags lately.

The Heritage Preservation Review Board held a public hearing on Wednesday (Feb. 6) revised plans for Aslin Beer Co.’s planned tasting room and bar at 771 Elden Street, which has recently faced design hurdles.

According to a staff report, the original application for the tasting room had a proposed deck area on the second floor that would inadvertently cover a stormwater management easement. The revised design takes away the deck, yet adds new elements that the staff report says need clarification.

“The Town and the applicant are working collaboratively to resolve this issue and a revision to the previous HPRB approval is being required as a component of this effort,” the report says.

Ira Saul, an attorney representing Aslin Beer Co., sent Community Design Planner Christopher Garcia a letter on Jan. 14 saying that all of the required materials have been submitted for the application to move forward at the Feb. 20 HPRB meeting.

“My understanding with [the Town Attorney] is that we are in a position to proceed with the HPRB application in tandem with the building permit revision, so that construction can begin expeditiously,” Saul wrote.

Later in January, the beer company told Alexandria Living Magazine that it plans to open a production facility and a 3,500-square-foot tasting room in the city’s West End neighborhood.

The board also held a public hearing on a proposal to add new retaining walls around a mausoleum and create new garden seating walls at the Chestnut Grove Cemetery (831 Dranesville Road).

The proposed retaining wall with an iron top rail is meant to minimize erosion, drainage and aesthetic issues, while the garden wall is set to be two feet high and be constructed in three separate segments, according to the staff report.

The Town Council is set for a public session next Tuesday (Feb. 12).

Images via Google Maps and Town of Herndon

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A new digital initiative is aiming to start in the county’s public high schools this fall for the 2019-2020 school year.

FCPSOn provides students with access to a device to use for learning, which each student can access at school and may be able to take home, based on the school and grade level. The initiative supports the FCPS Strategic Plan, which includes access to contemporary and effective technology as a component of the “Student Success” goal.

The Fairfax County School Board directed Superintendent Scott Brabrand to incorporate necessary funding for FCPSOn’s expansion to all high schools in his fiscal year 2020 proposed budget, South Lakes High School Principal Kim Retzer wrote in an email to the school’s community.

“It will help ensure they have equitable access to technology and to instructional practices that support their development of Portrait of a Graduate attributes including communication, collaboration and critical thinking,” Retzer wrote. “Employers will expect these skills, along with tech fluency and innovation, from tomorrow’s workforce. FCPSOn helps prepare students to meet those demands.”

The 2020 proposed budget sets aside $4.3 million to implement FCPSOn in high schools.

“The financial model for FCPSOn takes an approach of sustainable funding that includes shared cost between schools and central offices as well as student user fees. Funding and a new staffing formula will support an additional [18.5 positions],” according to the budget.

The budget includes a new technology fee of $50 per student per year for grades nine through 12 beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. Meanwhile, students eligible for reduced meals will pay a reduced fee of $25 per student and students eligible for free meals will no fees. Overall, the fee is expected to generate $2.2 million in revenue.

FCPSOn launched during the 2016-2017 school year to all of the schools in the Chantilly High School pyramid and five high schools that receive funds as part of the Virginia Department of Education e-Learning Backpack Grant. Phase 1 included a total of 15 schools and was funded through a combination of FCPS and the VDOE e-Learning Backpack grant funding.

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This is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

By the time you’re reading this Gov. Ralph Northam will have made his annual speech to the House Appropriations and the Senate Finance Committees to advise them of any changes he proposes to the biennial budget of the Commonwealth.

While the complete list of adjustments that he will propose to a budget that was passed nearly a year ago had not been made public when this column was written, we do know from public announcements some of the proposed changes that he is going to make, specifically in funding education. That is why I think he deserves a hearty holiday “Thank You!”

The Governor has proposed an additional $39 million in new money for investments “to ensure safe learning environments for Virginia’s K-12 students.” Of that amount, $36 million will be used as the first installment of a three-year, phased plan to reduce school counselor caseloads to 1:250 from its current 1:425. The additional $3.3 million will go to the Virginia Center for School Campus Safety to train school staff in maintaining safety in schools.

As the Governor explained, “Taking steps to provide additional support to students, raise awareness about suicide, and ensure students, school professionals, public safety personnel and community members are equipped with appropriate training and intervention skills are critical to a holistic school safety strategy.”

To recruit and retain the best teaching talent to the Commonwealth, Governor Northam has announced that he will seek an additional $268.7 million in new money for K-12 education that will among other improvements fund the state share of a 5 percent raise for teachers effective July 1, 2019. That is an increase over the current budget that would have funded a 2 percent raise.

The additional money for public schools includes $70 million for programs for at-risk students targeted to schools with the highest concentration of students eligible for free lunch to provide dropout prevention, after-school programs, and specialized instruction. An additional $80 million will be a one-time deposit to the Literary Fund which is a method by which the state helps poorer school divisions fund school construction.

As explained in a press release from the Governor’s Office, “Altogether, the budget proposals reflect the Governor’s commitment to ensuring that every Virginia student, no matter who they are or where they live, has the same access to a quality education.”

Even with these needed additional funds, the state share of education will continue to trail its pre-2008 economic recession level. With the slow recovery over many years that kept state revenues low, local governments have had to increase their funding to schools at the expense of other local needs. The proposals that the governor is making will help move the state back to a more equal partnership with localities in funding schools and hopefully to a 60 to 40 sharing of costs of state and local funding that had been envisioned for schools.

Gov. Northam deserves a big thank you for giving priority to funding programs for our children and their education. That is about investing in our future!

File photo

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