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FairfaxVienna officials aim to get an earlier start on budget priorities

Vienna officials aim to get an earlier start on budget priorities

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Starting with its next fiscal-year budget cycle, Vienna government staff will give the Vienna Town Council information earlier in the process so they can set priorities to guide the rest of the discussions.

The Council expressed support July 11 after Finance Director Marion Serfass outlined the revamped budget schedule.

Council members during budget negotiations this spring wished to change the process for discussing new projects so they could start setting goals in December, Serfass said.

Under the new timeline, town staff will develop and refine new programs in August and September, present them to the Budget Committee in October, have the committee review them in October and November, and then have a work session with the Council in December to announce each department’s budget goals for the upcoming fiscal year.

In January and February, town officials will develop the new budget based on the Budget Committee’s review, and the Council would hold work sessions and receive updates in March.

“There won’t be an unallocated portion [of the budget],” Serfass said. “It will already be in there.”

The Council then would follow up with the usual public hearings in April and budget adoption in May.

Town departments also will provide summaries with five-year trends regarding their revenues, expenditures and number of full-time employees, Serfass said. Town staff will describe their departments’ key services and goals, outline new initiatives and their costs, and list any requested new positions or jobs to be eliminated, she said.

“This will mean there will be no more unfunded priorities,” said Town Manager Mercury Payton. “That terminology and even that practice will go away because we’ll be on the front end understanding what the collective Council direction is, and then we’ll budget in that fashion.”

Council member Steve Potter approved of the new budget process, saying the Council had been asking for quantifiable goals and objectives earlier in the discussions.

Previous budget negotiations have not left enough time for “macro discussions” regarding the town’s overall direction, added Council member Ed Somers.

“Let’s deal with the big-picture numbers, because that affects everything that flows underneath it,” Somers said.

Mayor Linda Colbert called the process outlined by Serfass a “good plan.”
“I’m looking forward to trying this out this year,” Colbert said.

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