The Vinton Treasurer’s Office/Finance Department is enthusiastic about a change to the town’s processing and payment system that is being implemented as early as the end of July.
Currently, the department works through three vendors in processing electronic credit, debit, and e-check payments. Once switched over, Payment Service Network will process all methods of payments for the Treasurer’s Office Utility System.
When the Treasurer’s Office is able to go live with Payment Services Network, a new website with instructions will be added to its webpage as well as notification in the upcoming utility bill.
Customers will need to re-enter their information into the new system, but once that is complete, the staff feels that the new system will be much easier to work with and will offer more diverse services. This will allow customers the options of paying through the Payment Services Network App, by automated telephone service, online, by call center, or in the office at the counter.
The Finance Department now offers another new service for payments to the Town of Vinton— the drive-through drop box. This service is available “at any time on any day.”
This option allows customers to drop off payments for processing the following business day, similar to the mail-in option, except this service allows customers to save a stamp. Treasurer Anne Cantrell says the department has seen a small increase in utilization and is grateful to offer this payment option to citizens.
Many larger municipal governments have a separate Treasurer’s Office and Finance Department; however, Vinton has combined the two.
A main function of the Finance Department is to prepare and present to Town Council a budget for each fiscal year for their approval, balanced between revenues and expenditures. State law requires that balance.
The town’s operating budget is currently made up of four different funds: the General Fund, the Grant Fund (added this spring), the Utility Fund, and the Stormwater Fund.
The General Fund covers the main operations of the Town including buildings and grounds, communication services, economic development, Fire and EMS emergency services, Human Resources, Legal services, maintenance of highways, streets, and bridges, Planning and Zoning, the Police Department, Animal Control, Public Transportation, Public Works Administration, recycling, refuse collection, Senior programs, special programs, Town Council, the Town Manager’s office, the Vinton History Museum, traffic signs and street lights, the Finance Department, the Vinton Business Center, the Vinton Veterans Monument, and the War Memorial.
The revenue for the General Fund is generated by general property taxes–real estate, personal property, and public service corporation taxes, and other local taxes including the consumer’s utility tax, business license taxes, franchise license taxes, motor vehicle licenses, bank stock taxes, admissions and amusement taxes, hotel and motel room taxes, prepared food taxes, and cigarette tax.
General Fund revenue also comes from permits and fees, fines and forfeitures, investment interest income, rental of town property, charges for services, and charges for use of the Vinton War Memorial. Additional revenue comes from Roanoke County payments for fire hydrants, refuse collection, and gainsharing. There are recovered cost revenues police contractual services, categorical and non-categorical aid, and state sales taxes.
The Utility Fund includes all fees charged for water and wastewater services and purchased water and covers water and wastewater system maintenance and management– all the expenses necessary to provide services to citizens.
The Stormwater Fund covers the administration and operations relating to stormwater and is covered by a transfer from the General and Utility Fund.
Currently, the Grant Fund oversees multiple grants awarded to the town from private, state, and federal funding programs.
The budget process gets under way officially in January each year with Capital Improvement requests sent to department heads and letters mailed to community organizations who typically request funds from council.
Department heads submit detailed budget requests for the next fiscal year early in February. The Town Council Finance Committee reviews and analyzes requests and eventually balances the revenue and expenditures.
Real property tax rates are presented in public hearings and set in early spring. In late March or early April, budget presentations to council begin. The town manager makes a detailed presentation, followed by work sessions to iron out changes. After months of diligent and sometimes tedious effort, the budget is approved through an ordinance in late May or early June at a regular council meeting.
During this year’s budget building process, the Vinton Finance Department set high goals for the upcoming fiscal year, including continuing to perform at the level that will earn it the CAFR and Budget Presentation awards from the GFOA each year, and maintaining tax collection and utility collection rates of over 90 percent (these have been 98 percent and 99.75 percent respectively in the past several years).