Reston, VA

The roster of candidates for Herndon Town Council and mayor have been finalized for the Nov. 3 election.

Sheila Olem, the town’s current vice mayor, is running against Roland Taylor for mayor. Longtime mayor Lisa Merkel said she no will not seek reelection earlier this year. Merkel, the town’s first female mayor, was elected to the position in 2012.

A total of ten candidates are seeking six seats for the 2021-2022 term, including incumbents Cesar del Aguila, Pradip Dhakal, and Signe Friedrichs. The new candidates are Clark Hedrick, Syed Iftikhar, Sean Reagon, Naila Alam, Bessie Denton, Stevan Porter, and Jasbinder Singh.

Election Day is on Nov. 3. Polling locations for town council elections overlap with locations for the national election.

Stay tuned for op-eds from each of the candidates in the coming weeks.

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After revisions to its previous proposal, the Herndon Town Council formally adopted its budget for FY2021 this week.

The $61 million budget was scaled back to adapt to economic fluidity and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The town’s taxes and fees, including real estate and meals taxes, remain changed. But the town’s recycling fee doubled from $8 per quarter to $16 per quarter.

Unlike previous budgets, the document includes $11.5 million in immediately sequestered funds, $5.5 million of which will be attributed to the town’s general fund. Overall, the FY2021 budget allocates $38.8 million for the general fund.

Sequestered funds can be spent if the town achieves its revenue targets through the fiscal year. But if revenues fall below projections, the town may need to consider reductions in personnel costs.

 “While the adopted General Fund budget is $38.8 million, in practice it will be considered a $33.3 million budget,” said Mayor Lisa Merkel. “Sequestered funds may only be released if and when identified targets are met. This gives us latitude to adapt to the unstable and uncertain fiscal environment we are in. It also gives us the best chance to maintain our exceptional workforce.”

The adopted budget will be posted on the town’s website by July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Photo via Herndon Town Council/Zoom

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The Town of Herndon is proposing to double recycling fees, which are paid quarterly, from $8 to $16.

The Herndon Town Council will consider the proposal at a meeting tonight (Tuesday). The fee was last increased 2019 from $4 to $8 per quarter.

But since then, the recycling industry has suffered dramatic changes.

“Commodity prices are no longer as they once were and processing costs have continued to increase, while tonnages have either remained the same or increased,” Tammy Chastain, deputy director public works, wrote in a memo.

If approved, the increase would offset roughly 83 percent of recycling costs that the town bears. Currently, the recycling fee only covers 42 percent of the cost of recycling.

The fee increase would go into effect on July 1.

Photo via Patricia Valerio/Unsplash

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Prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, the Town of Herndon’s revised budget for the next fiscal year proposes a half-a-million-dollar cut from the original proposal.

The $38 million proposal eliminates a planned one-cent increase in the real estate tax, a projected increase of $100,000 in revenues from the Business, Professional ad Occupational License tax, and pay increases for town staff.

Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton II is also calling on the Herndon Town Council to immediately sequester $5.5 million that can be spent when the town achieves revenues targets int he next fiscal year.

Overall, however, the budget is not materially different from the original proposal. 

Ashton noted that the uncertain pace of economic recovery and lack of data on projected revenues creates an “extremely fluid” economic environment. If revenues fall below projections, the town will consider exploring reductions in personnel costs, the town’s largest spending category by far.

Here’s more from Ashton II on the updated plan:

The shortcoming of this proposal is that it does not directly consider how significant changes to the economy will affect the town’s revenues moving into, and through, FY 2021. The problem with creating such a forecast is that we have limited data to support creating assumptions on which to build these projections. If we were to establish projections based on the small data sampling we have today, we would be forced into significant personnel reductions in this budget. Such reductions would cause the town to incur additional costs and would be difficult to unwind should the revenue situation materialize better than expected. “

He also noted that the town’s budgeting approach will keep the town from “over-committing in its response to a worst-case scenario,” allowing the town to adapt to a changing economic climate in the post-COVID-19 world.

A work session on the budget is set for May 5, followed by public hearings on May 12 and May 26. All meetings, which begin at 7 p.m., will be held online. In addition to comments at meetings, residents can submit comments online or by emailing [email protected]

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Town of Herndon residents and businesses now have more time to file real estate property and transient occupancy taxes.

The Herndon Town Council approved two measures at a meeting earlier this week to extend due dates due to financial hardship created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first installment payment for real estate property taxes is due on August 28 instead of July 28. Transient occupancy taxes shifted based on the following schedule

  • March 20 payments are now due on June 20
  • April 20 payments are now due on July 20
  • May 20 payments are due on August 20
  • June 20 payments are due on August 20

If individuals are having trouble filing a meals tax return or paying the meals tax before the 20th day of the month, the town encourages residents to contact the county’s finance director at [email protected] for help.

Councilmember Cesar del Aguila voted against the extension for transient occupancy taxes, the financial burden of which he said would likely be absorbed by the parent companies of local hotels at the expense of delayed revenue for the town.

Image via Town of Herndon

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Like other jurisdictions across the country, the Town of Herndon is shifting to essential and core services, according to town manager Bill Ashton.

At an online Herndon Town Council meeting yesterday (Tuesday), Ashton said that the town ‘s top priority is continuing essential services like police, water and sewer, road networks, and public safety.

“Our focus has been on the continuity of core services throughout this crisis and beyond so that we have the ability to serve the community,” he said.

The town is encouraging staff to telework when possible. Staff who must interact directly with the public are practicing social distancing measures and taking protective measures.

“We just want to make sure that we are staffed to meet these needs,” Ashton said.

The town has also suspended hiring unless related to public safety and frozen capital expenditures unrelated to grant-funded projects. Private home visits are also restricted unless they are related to public safety. A moratorium is in effect on overtime as well.

The council is also considering plans to delay real estate tax due date to August 28 and delay transit occupancy taxes for hotels

Photo via Town of Herndon/Facebook

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(Updated to remove information about the statutory deadline)

As the U.S. experiences an economic downturn as a result of COVID19, Town of Herndon officials plan to revise the previously proposed budget for fiscal year 2021.

Herndon Town Manager William Ashton II recently decided that the budget  is no longer fitting for the town’s needs, according to a press release.

The budget will require “comprehensive changes” before a new draft is presented to the town council and public, the press release said.

To give everyone time to rethink the budget and make essential changes to the plan, Ashton suggested that required public hearings for the new budget be scheduled for May 12 and May 26, according to the press release.

“This gives staff time to adjust anticipated revenues, which are already significantly impacted by the pandemic,” Ashton said in the press release. “As a result, we expect comprehensive changes in our anticipated expenditures. Many of the assumptions in the current proposed budget are no longer valid.”

Typically, the town must adopt a budget prior to June 30, according to the press release, which added that the fiscal year typically begins on July 1.

Photo via Herndon Town Council/Facebook

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With social distancing protocols in place, the Herndon Town Council unanimously passed a local emergency declaration due to growing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The declaration, which was passed Tuesday night, follows a similar move by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors last week and State Gov. Ralph North’s declaration on March 12.

The move allows the council to activate the town’s emergency management plan and seek aid as needed. Town departments, agencies, and volunteer organization can also develop a more coordinated response to handle the public health crisis.

The council also formally adopted its Emergency Management Plan, a 93-page document that outlines emergency roles, coordination responsibilities, and recovery options.

Lesa Yeatts, the town’s attorney, said that although the town used the plan since 2015, it had never been formally considered by the council.

The formal adoption of the plan on Tuesday night also makes Police Chief Maggie DeBoard the emergency management coordinator for the town.

Yeatts said the town is working “feverishly” to meet the needs of residents and ensure continuity of service.

Councilmembers thanked the town’s staff and the police department for their tireless work during the pandemic.

Vice Mayer Sheila Olem also urged town residents to practice social distancing as much as possible.

“This is really serious. Please stay away from each other as much as you can.”

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Monday Morning Notes

County Schools to Remain Open — So far, all Fairfax County Public Schools are open and will remain on a normal schedule following the outbreak of the coronavirus. A second case of the virus in Virginia was confirmed yesterday. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Barricade Resolved at Cameron Glen Drive — A barricade situation was resolved earlier this morning on the 1800 block of Cameron Glen Drive. A man barricaded himself in a van. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Herndon Town Council Meets Tonight — The town council meets tonight in the Herndon Council Chambers Building at 7 p.m. to discuss a number of matters, including power utility easements for and the town’s good neighbor awards. [Town of Herndon]

Photo by Michael Reyes Photography

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The three outdoor tennis courts at Bready Park (814 Ferndale Avenue) are set to get a facelift.

The Town of Herndon plans to work with Bishop’s Tennis, Inc. to resurface and repair the courts. A cushioned hardcourt surface man will be installed and nets on the court will also be replaced.

At a meeting on Tuesday (Feb. 18), the Herndon Town Council discussed the $140,259 bid from the company.

A town spokesperson told Reston Now that the project would begin in August after summer camps are finished for the season. Typically, it takes between one to two weeks to complete resurfacing and repair projects.

Image via Google Maps

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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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The Herndon Town Council formally adopted changes to its comprehensive plan.

At a Tuesday (Jan. 28) meeting, the council approved changes recommended by the town’s planning commission and staff.

The updated plan incorporates a new chapter on economic development and clarifies that the plan should be reconsidered up to 2024, by which time downtown Herndon is expected to be built out.

Other changes include:

  • Pursuing a cooperative relationship with the county and regional entities for public infrastructure
  • Continued assessment of indoor and outdoor recreational facilities
  • Advancing pedestrian and multimodal facilities, including Van Buren Street improvements, trail lighting along the Washington & Old Dominion Trail
  • Ensuring residents with a half-mile from a park have access by all forms of transportation
  • Replace “heritage” with “historic” when referring to heritage preservation efforts.

Virginia’s code requires the review of comprehensive plans at least once every five years.

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The Herndon Town Council will consider increasing fees for indoor tennis programs and cremation at Chestnut Grove Cemetery later this year.

The council will consider a motion to increase fees for cremation at the park cremation garden and ground areas due to an increase in demand for cremation sites.

“While the site fees for the park area were reduced in 2017 due to underperformance, that adjustment achieved the desired result and salves have increased,” wrote Cindy Roeder, the town’s Director of Parks & Recreation. “It is now appropriate to make a modest upward adjustment to those rates to continue to maintain sufficient balance between costs, desirability, and long-term upkeep of the cemetery itself.” 

If approved, fees would increase from $2,195 to $2,700 on July 1. The proposed fee schedule is available online

The council will also consider a $2 increase for all hourly fees for residents and non-residents.

In a memo to the council, Roeder wrote that the increase would help the department “continue to offset all operating and personnel costs.” Fee increases for tennis programs are expected to go into effect in September.

The council meet’s tonight (Tuesday) at 7 p.m. in the Herndon Council Chambers building.

Image via Google Maps

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In the latest five-year of the Town of Herndon’s comprehensive plan, town officials are considering a handful of changes to update the master planning document that is reviewed every five years.

The Herndon Town Council will discuss the changes, which were recommended by the town’s Planning Commission, at a meeting tonight (Jan. 7). The comprehensive plan guides present and future development of jurisdictions in order to promote the health, safety, and welfare of its residents.

While some suggested amendments tweak references and names, some planned changes emphasize the prioritization of multimodal approaches for pedestrian and bicycle facilities, cooperation with Fairfax County and Loudoun County officials regarding nearby transit-oriented areas, and assessment of recreational facilities.

Other suggested amendments cover the following topic areas:

  • Cooperation with nearby jurisdictions for major public services like schools, fire and rescue and libraries
  • Ensuring town facilities “meet the needs of all ages and abilities”
  • Providing housing choices including mixed-use neighborhoods with transit
  • Accessible parks for residents
  • A roadmap to address policies related to climate change
  • A plan chapter on economic development
  • Emphasis on universal design for individuals with varying abilities

The council will meet at 7 p.m. tonight in the Herndon Council Chambers Building (765 Lynn Street).

Photo via Town of Herndon

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On Jan. 14, 1879, the Town of Herndon was officially incorporated, marking 141 years since its incorporation this month.

To honor its birthday, the Herndon Town Council plans to proclaim that day as the “Herndon Town Incorporation Day”:

“Further, the Mayor and Town Council of the Town of Herndon, Virginia, hereby express appreciation to mayors, councils, members of the Herndon Historical Society, town staff, and volunteers, who ~ both in the past and in the present ~ continually strive to preserve and document the history of the Town of Herndon, and encourage the public’s interest in our distinct heritage.”

The motion is up for a vote at the council’s meeting tomorrow. Every 10 years, the council presents this proclamation to Herndon’s Historical Society. The next presentation is set for 2029 for the town’s 150th anniversary.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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