Higher sales tax revenue helped Manassas Park realize a 1999 budget surplus of $1.5 million, city officials said last week.

The surplus is the second largest in the city's history, and is attributed mostly to its sales tax and the sale of building permits for the Blooms Crossing housing development. Manassas Park's 1999 budget is $13.6 million.

Although the city usually has an annual surplus (it hasn't run on a deficit in six years), it hadn't had a sum this large since 1994, when Manassas Park had $1.7 million at year's end.

Brett Shorter, director of fiscal services and assistant city manager, said Manassas Park has several options for the money, including sending it to the bank to earn interest.

But Mayor Ernest L. Evans (R) said the city really has only one choice when it comes time to allocate the surplus.

"It's going to be needed for the schools because we've got no choice," he said, adding that the money must go toward building a new elementary school, estimated to cost $10 million. "We've got to build that [new elementary school] because we're going to have more kids than we can house if we don't."

Manassas Park's new high school, which cost more than $14 million, opened last year. Shorter said he doubts the surplus will be used toward that debt because the city has about 20 years to pay the bill for that school.

But until City Manager David W. Reynal presents a five-year financial plan to City Council members in January, the money will sit tight.

Shorter said the surplus, mostly attributed to the $1.1 million Manassas Park earned from its sales tax, which is 4.5 percent, will allow city officials to project higher revenue for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

"When you do the budget in January, you're trying to project 18 months in advance," Shorter said. "Now we can project higher revenues [from the city's sales tax and Blooms Crossing permits]. But you always have to be reasonable and always keep the possibility of a recession in the back of your mind when doing it."

Manassas Park has a history of revenue projection controversy. Former city manager Frank McDonough resigned in July 1998 after a heated confrontation with the council over his budget, which the council said underestimated revenue.

City Council members are reviewing resumes from several residents and a former mayor for a council position left vacant when Douglas M. Parks died last month. Parks, a Republican, was the longest-serving member on the council.

Council members will interview the applicants before a public meeting, slated for Nov. 30, the same day they must appoint someone new to the council. The candidates are:

* Wayne L. Houston, 54, is a 10-year employee of New Dimensions Inc. in Manassas, which builds single-family houses. He also serves as chairman of the Manassas Park Board of Zoning Appeals.

* Jesse Ludvigsen, 44, works as a senior staff systems integrator with Lockheed Martin Corp. in Bethesda and is a member of the Manassas Park Planning Commission. He also is a noted "watchdog" of the City Council.

* Robert Maitland, 63, who served as Manassas Park mayor from 1984 to 1988. Before his tenure as the city's leader, Maitland served four years on the council. He also has served six years on the Manassas Park School Board. Maitland works as an assistant chief with the building plan review division of the Fairfax County Department of Environmental Management.

* Vonna Privett is vice chairman of the School Board, where she has served for more than eight years. She is also a volunteer on many school and city panels.

* Leonard A. "Len" Tabacchi, 48, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the City Council last year, is the chief of the strategic plans division at the Defense Information Systems Agency in Arlington. He received 169 votes in the 1998 election, finishing fourth.

* Thomas Yanoti, who serves on the Board of Zoning Appeals and the city's Historical Society, is known for his opposition to efforts to bring off-track betting to Manassas Park.