Leesburg Town Council officials appealed to their state representatives last week for more money for transportation projects but acknowledged that they weren't likely to get it because of Virginia's budget crunch and the defeat of the sales tax referendum.
Many of the projects have been on their wish list for some time, including a new bridge over the Potomac River and a bus rapid transit system connecting Leesburg and western Loudoun County with the Dulles corridor.
But this year, council members added funding for improvements to Routes 7 and 15 and the roads that feed them, noting that a lot of traffic there includes trucks and other vehicles passing through Leesburg to other parts of the county. Some funds from the sales tax referendum would have been available for these projects.
Mayor Kristen C. Umstattd drew a rough sketch of some subdivisions, including Kincaid Farms and Stratford, that need more roads, to show the representatives the congestion that some town residents must endure. "The people who live here . . . don't have many options," she said.
At the working dinner at the Red Laurel Inn, the council members also lobbied for voting status for Leesburg in the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, an organization that helps plan regional transportation projects.
The three state representatives -- Sens. William C. Mims (R-Loudoun) and H. Russell Potts Jr. (R-Winchester) and Del. Joe T. May (R-Loudoun) -- said they would do what they could for the town. "We will make our case," Mims said.
But the legislators said they were doubtful of any funding increases in light of Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner's statement that everything, including education, was on the table for budget cuts.
"We put all our eggs in one basket," May said of the state's reliance on tax revenue boosted by the boom in high-tech entrepreneurs.
Potts asked the town officials why they thought the sales tax referendum was defeated. Just about all gave the same reason: They had not made as strong a case as their opponents, who they said convinced people that the tax money would be kept in Richmond and not used in Northern Virginia.
"They really made a strong case right away of convincing people that the money would go to Richmond," said council member David Barton Schmidt, who voted for the half-cent sales tax increase.
Mims noted that Warner has suggested that revenue could be generated by raising the cigarette sales tax. At 2.5 percent, Virginia's is the lowest in the country. Mims said that if this is done, "towns and cities should be vigilant" about making sure they collect their share of the revenue.
Mims said he was sympathetic to Leesburg's desire to be a voting member of the NVTA but said the organization was reluctant to give more members the right to vote. "I don't know exactly what to do about it," he said.
The NVTA allows the representatives of the four counties and five cities in Northern Virginia to vote on regional projects. But because it is a town, Leesburg is given only advisory status.
Town Council members also tried to puncture the idea that Leesburg and Loudoun County are populated only by the affluent. They said some of the town's transportation worries derive from the fact that employees can't find affordable housing near Leesburg and must live far away.
"There are Loudoun County government workers moving to West Virginia because they don't have affordable housing here," said council member J. Frank Buttery Jr.
Town officials also asked the legislators to try to modify state regulations that require localities to file reports on the environmental state of every individual lot in a development. County inspectors prefer to file reports on the entire development instead of every segment within it, they said, to cut down on paperwork.