My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

First up, Councilman Wolfe

Mark is an elected republican and is in his second term as a Council member.  He currently chairs the Economic / Land Use committee of the Council.


Last night the City Council had their first in a series of budget meeting.

From my perspective things break down into two broad strokes:

Mark Wolfe for webFirst, the Managers base budget that calls for a tax rate even with last years is designed to maintain the existing level of services with virtually no new initiatives or expanded services. One key area is the beginning of a program designed to retain younger, experienced Police and Fire providers who are being poached by neighboring jurisdictions.

That makes sense to me. The feedback I have received (confirmed by our citizen surveys) shows that folks are pretty content with the level of services provided by the City. And I am not hearing anyone call for less Police protection, less Fire services, less recreation opportunities, less street maintenance, etc.    

The one question that has come up is why a 4% increase in real estate bills if we are maintaining an even level of services and prices (cost of living) are generally up something like 2%? The answer to that question is in the City’s revenue mix. 

Real Estate taxes make up roughly 55-60% of the total revenue that goes into the City’s general fund. Our problem is that the revenues from the other 45-40% of the revenue stream (Meals tax, Communications tax, BPOL, Machinery, Cigarette, etc) are projected to be flat or slightly decline. That puts an increased burden on the Real Estate tax side. As one friend of mine said, “it’s math!”    

The second area is the Managers call for an extra 3 cents on the tax rate to fund future capital projects and to help provide a dedicated funding source for the City’s NVTA commitments. Essentially this boils down to if you want/need to do extra things from the base budget, you have to pay for them. Some of the big ticket items include a new south side fire station, a replacement to the existing fire station, a new Police/Public Safety facility and a replacement for Dean Elementary School.

To me, this is where the tough sledding for the Council will be. No one wants to increase taxes. But most of the Council (maybe all?) recognize that we need to continue improving the City to make it more attractive to new businesses and residents. Thus expanding the tax base and make Manassas economically viable for the long run. The question is what, when and how? That is where I (and I think the rest of the Council) will really value input from the Citizens. It’s not so much about today, it’s about tomorrow. 


  1. Councilman Wolfe:  The general condition of the roads and sidewalks seems to be worsening.  There are literally chunks of the road breaking off in front of my house.  Is there money in the budget to get roads paved?

    Also, what about Parks and Rec?

  2. Jerry- Roads and sidewalks had gotten worse as the City scrimped to save money due to the recession. We added some extra money to address the issue during the last couple of years but more is needed. As for Park/Rec I do not believe that the City Manager has called for any new initiatves. But he does recognize the need. Its the old story, to do more costs more money! Are the Citizens and the Council willing to raise taxes for these (or other) extra items? Or not?

  3. andy

    March 15, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    The roads are horrible.  Grant Avenue is literally coming apart.  I don't mind that my road was last paved during the Nixon administration but Grant is a heavily used road.  The general condition of the city is not great although when spring comes, it'll at least look green.

    I'd also ask Mr. Wolfe about staff retention in public safety.  What's doing there?  The Chief indicated that we are steady losing staff and in public safety that ain't good.

  4. Mary Ann Jenkins

    March 15, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    I heard the presentation by the Economic Development Director and although his presentation and plans are impressive, I have heard these ideas before.  It seems to me as a taxpayer that the ball is in his court to find new sources of revenue so the real estate taxpayers are not having to keep paying most of the bills.  I do not see at this time why there is a position for Economic Development Coordinator when the Economic Devleopment Director has yet to show any measurable results in increasing the commercial tax base for the City.  We are building an economic development empire before we have measurable results on the cost benefit of these positions.  

  5. Mary Ann Jenkins

    March 15, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    I would also like to put my two cents in about Parks and Rec.  I do not think that the City needs a  park and rec department.  I for one do not want to pay for funding of one.  This is a non-starter as far as I am concerned as a taxpayer.  There are plenty of recreational opportunities in the area.  We do not live in an isolated area.  We are surrounded with things to do for recreation.


  6. Andy- The Chiefs are in the midst of developing a plan to combat the poaching of our folks by other jurisdictions. I don't have the details yet but it is tied into a program to index positions to their market value rather than an artificial matrix of ranked positions. 

    Mary Ann- Your points are well taken. Sometimes we need to invest first, before we will see any results. If we don't get results, there will be changes. One item though, the Economic Development work will add to/broaden our Real Estate tax base. It will not create new sources of revenue. Only the General Assembly can do that. 

  7. Parks & Rec:  I do like – and support – retention of green spaces in the City, and the Parks that are also ball fields for use.  However, maintenance is always an issue.  I have suggested before that Neighborhood Services should be the lead on organizing a version of a Civilian Conversation Corps for our Youth who could assist at maintaining those Parks.

    A similar model exists with GMBL where adult volunteers, and some older Teens, work at maintaining the fields.  The work represents ownership which develops pride in their fields.  If Neighborhood Services established a Youth Corps, that same ownership to pride also teaches Citizenship.

    Of course, all a pipe dream.  Our Neighborhood Services, if it operated under the evidence-based model of "Asset-Based Community Development", would be doing this.  The model followed in the past was "Recreational Volunterism" which has been proven to be a waste of time if not followed by an ongoing program. That City Department is simply a "feel good" department which has gotten the City recognized, but as low value for ROI.

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