Herndon Candidates Forum: Question 1
Focus on Fairfax is proud to present this online candidate forum, with each candidate answering three questions from Washington Post Reporter Bill Turque.
Question 1: As matters stand today, would you vote to renew the permit for the day labor center when it comes up for renewal next year? If not, what alternative do you propose?
Mayoral Candidate Steve J. DeBenedittis: Among the many alternatives are: - the current site operator could come into compliance with all Federal and State laws, - use of legal, private for-profit labor "temp agencies", and - those seeking employment can use the Virginia Employment Commission.
Mayoral Candidate Michael L. O'Reilly: I would renew the permit. The permit was granted for a two year period with 3 possible one year extensions. The establishment of the regulated site has allowed Herndon to clean up an area of Town where we used to have over 100 workers standing on a corner looking for work. It is being run in an orderly fashion with a positive impact on our community. No other proposal that was discussed last summer or that has been proposed by any candidate would have accomplished what we accomplished. The national issues of border enforcement and immigration reform belong in Washington.
Question 1: To reduce spending and lower the tax rate, what specific town service or program would you be willing to cut?
Town Council Candidate Carol A. Bruce: It is neither advisable nor necessary to slash services or eliminate programs in order to reduce the tax rate from the two-cent reduction in the Manager's recommended budget to the equalized tax rate of 21 cents per $100. I believe we can find the additional $870,000 needed to effect this reduction by making small but judicious cuts throughout the budget and by considering options such as adjusting the percentage amount of the contribution Town employees make to benefit plans and making very modest (no more than one percent) meals and occupancy tax adjustments to help diversify our revenue stream.
Town Council Candidate Dennis D. Husch: I would significantly curtail the growth in personnel and personnel costs. I would eliminate unfilled positions, emphasize cross-training and transfer qualified personnel between departments to increase emphasis in areas like the elimination of illegal boarding houses and overcrowding. To address our aging workforce and imminent retirements, I would advocate succession planning that includes staff downsizing and reorganization. I would advocate increasing staff efficiencies by adding new management technologies and tools such as the Customer Relationship Management System. Finally, I would put large capital improvement projects to a public referendum.
Town Council Candidate Connie Haines Hutchinson: With a total budget increase in spending of 22.6% over last year, it is definitely time to take a serious look at "wants" versus "needs" in the Capital Improvement Program because that portion of the budget is responsible for the largest percent of the increase. As the Town's wish list of Capital Projects continues to grow, the level of spending to provide "wants" continues to push the budget into unacceptable limits. The only way to get our spending under control for Capital Improvement Projects is to have leadership from the Mayor and Council that will prioritize "needs" over "wants."
Town Council Candidate David A. Kirby: "Cut and Save" is my budget philosophy. If each Department head cut their budget by HALF the increase over last year's budget, we would save $1.3 million. This would allow an additional three cent tax rate reduction above the proposed two cent reduction. Further cuts can be attained by reducing selected CIP items such as reducing the Nature Center from $2.4 million back in line with the original $1.2 million dollar estimate. This would also reduce our debt services as this funding would most likely have to come from a bond issue.
Town Council Candidate Steven D. Mitchell: I am a proponent of diversifying our tax base to lower our dependence on the real estate tax. The taxes collected from real estate are the single largest revenue source to the Town and will account for a total of 33.6 percent of total FY 2007 General Fund recurring revenues (or 28.4 percent of total FY 2007 General fund revenue and other financing sources). At this time, the Council is taking public testimony on the Town Managers proposed budget for 2006-2007. After all public testimony and Council deliberations, the budget will reflect the needs and wants of all citizens.
Town Council Candidate J. Harlon Reece: Before cutting specific services or programs, we should consider alternative ways to lower the real estate tax rate. We could consider an "across the board" reduction that would apply to all departments. In the town manager's proposed budget, the two highest categories of general fund expenditures are personnel costs at 57% and operations and maintenance (O&M) at 18%. We must take a hard look at these and other cost areas. We will consider meals tax and transient lodging tax increases to help offset a reduction in the real estate rate. We need a comprehensive review of the proposed budget.
Town Council Candidate Jorge Rochac:
I am a candidate for Town Council, as such I have seen the operations of town services and programs from the point of view of an ordinary citizen who may or may not have been affected by a town service or program. I could not possibly, at this time, venture into an opinion about possible cuts of specific services or programs. If elected to the Town Council, my past experience tells me that I must first listen to my experienced peers, ask questions and study, in detail the services and operations of the town, and if needed consider the alternatives and possible reductions in spending or services and programs.
Town Council Candidate William B. Tirrell: The easiest place is in the Capital Improvement Program (CIP). Buying the new/current police station building placed the CIP in jeopardy. CIP projects can be delayed - of course at a cost. Partial funding for some projects can be 'reserved' now and the projects started in later years. Bonding can be delayed. This will help reduce spending. We have the finest staff of any jurisdiction, but the benefits package must be reviewed. In some cases, a benefits package, equal to about 44% of the salaries, is in the budget. That may be more than the Town can support.
Town Council Candidate Charlie D. Waddell: My approach would not target one particular program. Council's role is not one of micromanagement.
I propose setting a cap on expenditures at 106% of last year's budget and to task directors of the respective departments to resubmit their budget requests to meet this limitation. Directors able to meet this limit would be considered for merit bonuses.
Expenditures exceeding the budget limit would be carefully scrutinized and authorized only to meet a clearly demonstrated need - overcrowding enforcement, for example.
I'd consider funding high technology solutions for use in combating the overcrowding problem.