Leesburg Town Manager Would Cut Positions, Pay Raises

By Kafia A. Hosh
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 1, 2009

In the wake of the recession and falling real estate assessments, Leesburg Town Manager John A. Wells proposed a budget last week that would eliminate four vacant staff positions, leave six others unfilled and provide no pay raises for town employees.

Wells outlined his proposed $95.3 million spending plan for the next fiscal year at the Town Council meeting Tuesday, saying that the town's financial outlook is bleak and that the government must tighten its belt. The council adopted a $100 million budget last year.

"The impacts of the current economic recession would likely affect not only 2010 but 2011, as well," Wells said. "We simply couldn't afford to do business the same way we've been doing."

Wells proposed a property tax rate of 19.75 cents per $100 of assessed value, less than the rate of 21.3 cents that would be required to generate the same amount of revenue as the town received in the current fiscal year.

The current rate is 18 cents per $100 of assessed value. But because of the drop in assessments, the average real estate tax bill would decrease by about 7.5 percent under his proposal, Wells said.

Wells proposed to cut $2.6 million from the $45.8 million general fund portion of the budget by withholding cost-of-living and performance raises, eliminating three vacant positions and freezing three others, putting new limits on outside legal services, discontinuing the popular Court and Market Days festival and delaying computer upgrades.

One of the eliminated positions is the vacant post of assistant human resources director, saving the town more than $100,000 annually.

"We are reducing, but we're not reducing filled positions," Wells told council members. "We've just been able to do it without having to have live people in the positions."

He added that he was able to propose the staff cutbacks because the town recently has hired personnel with broader backgrounds and has cross-trained employees so they can learn to perform duties that go beyond their job descriptions.

In the town's utility fund budget, Wells recommended freezing two vacant positions and eliminating a vacant director's post. A manager position also was cut from the capital projects budget.

Wells also recommended delaying the construction of a third recreational field at Ida Lee Park and holding off on the development of the 86-acre Veterans Park, which fronts the Potomac River.

Council members seemed satisfied with the proposed budget and were mostly relieved that it included no employee layoffs.

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