By Debbie Adams
Vinton Town Council held multiple public hearings at its meeting on April 5– on taxes, issuance of bonds, and a new cable franchise. All these items had been discussed extensively in previous council and committee meetings.
Council was briefed at the March 15 meeting on a request from Shentel (Glo-Fiber) to operate a cable system within the territorial limits of the Town of Vinton with a 10-year franchise. An Invitation to Bid was advertised for any entity seeking the grant of the franchise, along with notification of a public hearing on the proposal.
During the April 5 council meeting, Town Clerk Susan Johnson opened the one bid that had been received– from Shentel. There were no public comments made during the public hearing.
Council voted to approve the competitive cable television franchise for a 10-year period through April 5, 2032. To the extent possible, Shentel will be using existing poles and underground conduits throughout the town for its system.
A second public hearing involved setting the real estate, personal property, and machinery and tools tax rates for calendar year 2022. Assistant Town Manager Cody Sexton presented the report from staff.
The Town of Vinton’s total real estate assessment increased by approximately 8.55% for calendar year 2022 (8.03% when new construction is subtracted). This results in an increase of tax levies of $31,909. Fortunately, the town’s revenue sources are widely diversified and not heavily dependent upon real estate taxes, unlike many localities.
The current real estate tax rate is 7 cents per $100 of assessed value. Council voted to make no changes in the real estate tax rate.
The current personal property tax rate is $1 per $100 of assessed evaluation of all personal property excepting household furnishings, or 50 cents per $100 for motor vehicles owned and regularly used by a disabled veteran (subject to qualifications). Council voted to make no changes in this rate as well.
Council also adopted a resolution setting the allocation percentage for Personal Property Tax Relief for the 2022 tax year at 48.42%. The Personal Property Tax Relief Act of 1998 established a statewide program to provide relief to owners of personal use motor vehicles, subsequently amended in later years. The reimbursement rate is calculated based on a model developed by the state using historical trends and a five-year rolling average.
The third public hearing concerned issuance of bonds by the town of an estimated $710,808 to pay the town’s share of costs of capital improvements to the Western Virginia Water Authority’s regional wastewater treatment plant, and related expenses. The State Water Control Board has authorized the funding from the Virginia Water Facilities Revolving Fund. This debt will transfer to the WVWA when it takes over ownership and operation of the Town of Vinton water and wastewater utility systems this summer.
In other action, council adopted a resolution appropriating funds in the amount of $1,128,016 from the Capital Outlay Fund to the General Fund Expense account for approved American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funds projects. Council members were briefed on recommended projects for the ARPA funds at their retreat in February. They include Premium Pay for frontline workers in the police and Public Works Departments, adding a position in the Police Department, MUNIS Software, Garthright Bridge maintenance, paving, and PPE supplies.
Council adopted a resolution appropriating funds in the amount of $146,335 to pay off a loan with Signature Public Funding Corp. for the purchase of a 2019 Ravo 5-iSeries Compact Sweeper from Atlantic Machinery. The cost of the street sweeper was $242,703. The funds will be allocated from the Stormwater Fund. Council members have indicated their desire to use one-time capital funds to pay off debt whenever possible to relieve monetary pressures.
After a briefing by Town Manager Pete Peters, council adopted a resolution authorizing amendments to a Memoranda of Understanding with Roanoke County for the Vinton/East County Hotel, Vinyard Station, and Gish Mill redevelopment projects. The timeline for the projects and reimbursements for each separate agreement need to be moved forward by one year for the town to realize the full intent and benefit of the agreements.
The three projects and changes to the MOU’s include:
- Vinyard Station Redevelopment Project: An MOU was approved by the Board of Supervisors on November 6, 2019, which included a five-year reimbursement of taxes estimated at $40,000 year, not to exceed $200,000. The first installment was originally scheduled to begin in January 2022 and conclude in January 2026. With the MOU amendment, the first payment from the county to the town for net, new taxes (real property, personal property, and sales tax) generated from Vinyard Station will be made in January 2023 and continue annually until they conclude in January 2027.
- Gish Mill Redevelopment Project: An MOU was approved by the Board of Supervisors in May 2021 which included a five-year reimbursement of taxes estimated at $40,000 per year, not to exceed $200,000. The first installment was expected to begin in January 2024 and conclude in January 2028. With the amendment to the MOU, the county’s first payment of net new taxes will be delayed until January 2025 and conclude with a final payment in January 2029.
- Vinton Hotel Redevelopment Project: An MOU was approved by the Board of Supervisors in July 2021, which included a three-year reimbursement of taxes estimated at $150,000 per year, not to exceed $450,000. The first installment was scheduled to begin in January 2024 and conclude in January 2026. With the amendment to the MOU, the first installment will be paid in January 2025 with the final installment paid in January 2027.
The Roanoke County Board of Supervisors took action on March 22 to approve these amendments to the MOUs.
Peters noted that the hotel project is on track to break ground in late summer.
He also presented an update on the transfer of the town’s water and wastewater systems to the WVWA in July, commenting that the project is now “in the home stretch with just the i’s to be dotted and the t’s crossed.” The town and the Authority are in an ongoing conversation about the transfer with attorneys reviewing documents. They will be issuing public comments about the transfer soon and notifying citizens of the transition process. In May, employees from the WVWA will be shadowing Public Works employees and responding to calls. Citizens will receive notifications in their utility bills from the town and from the Authority about billing.
Peters said plans are in the works for activities in early June celebrating the signing of the transfer agreement. He also remarked that it has been a pleasure to work with the WVWA through what is a “big task with lots of detail involved.”
Acting Treasurer Cody Sexton presented the January Financial Report which indicates that the town continues to be in good shape financially with cash on hand in the amount of $10.1 million with an additional $3.3 million in investments. Revenues continue to be ahead of projections and expenditures lower than expected.