Jeanette Rishell

Mayor Of Manassas Park

September 2023


They call it “Pari-mutuel Wagering” or “Games of Skill”.
But gambling by any other name is still gambling.

Our City is a welcoming
and family friendly community.
Gambling should not be a part of this.

I oppose bringing gambling to the City of Manassas Park,

and urge you to vote against the referendum

that will be on the ballot in November. 

My reasons for opposing gambling are:

**Gambling is not a good example for our children.

**The young are vulnerable to addictive behavior.

~~Responsible Gambling Council

**Gambling at any age can stimulate the brain's reward system

much like drugs & alcohol do. ~~The Mayo Clinic

**There are not enough resources now 
to help those with addictive behavior.

**Several hundred machines is large scale gambling. 
This is not the same as a few slot machines in your local gas station,

not the same as buying lottery tickets, and not the same as church bingo. 

And if this is successful, the owners can add hundreds more machines.

**What will be the real traffic impact on route 28 and

on the Manassas Drive/Route 28 intersection?

**We are being told that gambling will bring in lots of revenue,

but is it right to put a price on the character of our city?

**Lost tax revenue and job loss at mainstream businesses

when spending is diverted to gambling is almost never mentioned.

~~The Hidden Social Costs of Gambling, Baylor University

**Local restaurants are especially vulnerable.

~~The Hidden Social Costs of Gambling, Baylor University

I believe we can achieve our financial goals

by continuing to recruit mainstream businesses.

NO on Gambling

October 2021

Bulk Waste Pick Up
     Patriot picks up bulk waste items (for ex. furniture) during normal trash pick-up on Wednesdays, but it has to be requested and scheduled 24 hours in advance by calling Patriot at 703-257-7100. Pick up does not occur unless it is specifically requested.  If it is left out after Wednesday and without prior coordination, it will probably not be picked up. The City is happy to assist residents by contacting Dept of Public Works at 703-393-0881 or by email  and  the City will coordinate with Patriot.  Requests must be made by 1PM the day prior, or else it will be scheduled for the following week.  
     When placing items by the curb for pick up, please make certain the items are not blocking the sidewalk or jutting out into the roadway. For additional information please visit the Public Works Dept section of the City website.

     Manassas Park has enhanced 9-1-1 Services and Emergency Notification with Smart911. This is a free service that allows individuals to create a Safety Profile for their household that can include any information (for ex. health issues) they may want 9-1-1 call takers and first responders to have, in the event of an emergency. Information may include, but not be limited to, medical condition, elder care requirements, disabilities, or the presence of service animals.
     If a registered household needs to dial 9-1-1, their Safety Profile will immediately display on the call taker’s screen. A Safety Profile can be created at or through Smart911 cellphone app. Individual users decide how much information they want to provide, and it is all stored securely in the Smart911 system. This voluntary information allows responders to be aware of details they previously would not have known. 
     Individuals can also opt-in for Emergency Alerts, so residents receive timely and important information about emergency events in the area. Like the Smart911 profile, users are in charge of what alerts they receive, and they can also identify when and how they are communicated with before, during, and after emergencies.

ARPA Funds
     In March of 2021, the US Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and that included direct funding for localities across the country. Manassas Park was informed that our City would receive a little more than $21 Million in ARPA funds, arriving in four successive allotments, the last one arriving in June 2022. The funds will either come directly from the Federal Treasury, or from the state as pass-through funds from the Federal Treasury. 
     It is important to note that there are restrictions and requirements on these funds, which if not adhered to would result in the City having to return funds. Staff has, and will continue, to review the guidelines very carefully.
NOTE: There are items for which the City CANNOT use these funds. Those major items include: cannot use the funds to lower taxes, cannot use the funds to pay down the city’s large debt burden, cannot use these funds to build financial reserves, and cannot use the funds for employee pension funds. There are many other restrictions on use of these funds including for transportation projects, city fleet (not related to COVID-19 response), and more.
     ARPA funds are eligible for expenditures that are incurred from March 3, 2021 until December 31, 2026; however the funds must be obligated by December 31, 2024. In other words, a capital item may be purchased prior to the 2024 deadline, but payments may be made using ARPA funds until the 2026 deadline.
     I recommend that all residents view the meeting agenda for July 20, 2021 for detailed information. It would also be helpful to view the July 20th meeting video on YouTube, where City Manager provides an excellent presentation of the City’s potential use of these funds in accordance with law and regulation. There will be continued discussions regarding ARPA funds and residents are encouraged to continue to follow this facet of City business.

Plant Native Trees
     The regional Plant NOVA Natives campaign is kicking off a multi-year Plant NOVA Trees campaign this fall to encourage residents and businesses across Northern Virginia to plant more native trees and preserve the ones we have. Native trees; cool the environment naturally to reduce air conditioning costs, provide a wind break in the winter, capture stormwater, protect streams and the Chesapeake Bay, support butterflies, songbirds and other wildlife. For more information, visit the Plant NOVA Trees website;  

Late Fall 2020

We all pay the same tax rate, and we are aware that our tax rate is the highest in Virginia. This is a direct result of the huge debt bonding that was done during the 2000’s, with total debt level well beyond $120,000,000. 
Our City did not get into this situation over night, and our problems will not be solved over night. These high yearly debt service payments limit the decisions that the Governing Body is able to make going forward. 

You may have been told that taxes could have already been lowered, by “cutting excess” and “cutting waste” in the City budget. This is NOT true!  All Departments and the School Division are underfunded and understaffed, and we cannot remove funding from them. That would destroy the City services that residents have come to expect.

In FY2023 the debt service will begin to drop. This drop in yearly debt service, along with potential incoming revenue from the downtown project, will provide the City the flexibility to address the unmet needs of the City (listed on the front of the mailer), and lowering our taxes is a priority. The progress of the City depends upon the strength of the overall economy and avoiding a recession, because these economic uncertainties are out of our control. 

The Governing Body has a responsibility to allocate limited funding to all parts of the City fairly. Decisions made by the Governing Body must be made with balance and deliberation, because most decisions are not easy, and they come with the potential for unintended consequences.

Our City purchases water externally (from both Prince William County and Manassas City). In addition to the actual cost of the water, we also pay for the ability to purchase the water. The costs associated with the ability to purchase enables the seller to accommodate any extra capital needs the seller might have in order to service the buyer; and this could be considered our share of the burden on the seller’s infrastructure.

Likewise, the City pays for the ability to treat the waste flowing out of the City into the Upper Occoquan Service Authority (UOSA). In addition to paying for the actual flow and treatment, we also pay for plant capacity at UOSA, which also accommodates capital needs at UOSA based upon City usage as measured by our flow. Manassas Park’s share of the UOSA plant capacity is less than 5% but nevertheless this is an expense.

The City has explored selling the water system in order to both lower and stabilize costs. The purchaser could be a company that has economies of scale that our City does not have. There have been problems moving forward with this option. The City has not pursued this any further because there are legal hurdles to this approach that require a lot of funding up front; and in the end, the City may not be allowed to sell the system.  

In terms of the actual water bill, there is a distinction between the cost of water vs. the cost of sewer vs. the refuse and recycling charge - which are all part of the same bill.  Water is only about 37% of the per-thousand fee.  Sewer is about 63% of that per-thousand fee.  $46 is the base fee that funds both water and sewer capacity debt.  The rest of the bill is refuse and recycling.  

So in summary our City is dependent upon other entities for the purchase of our water, and we do not have economies of scale that would lower those costs. Some larger jurisdictions subsidize the cost of water with the General Fund, but that does not reflect the real cost to residents, because the General Fund contains your tax dollars and therefore water is still paid for by the residents of Manassas Park.


Summer 2020

Fiscal Stability - Constant Progress

**Debt Refinance - The City has proactively refinanced eligible City debt to save about $2 Million in debt service payments. This enlarges the City’s Reserve Fund and will help the City withstand recession.
**Tight budgeting – The City only spends what is necessary, has an established Fiscal Policy, and more efficient processes that enable the tracking of all funds. The City is also aggressively pursuing the collection of unpaid taxes and fees.
**Fiscal Position - At the conclusion of FY2016 the City was in a negative fiscal position, but due to careful management, the City is now in a positive position with modest reserves that will help with any future unforeseen emergency.
**Restoration of City Credit Ratings – Standard & Poor’s rating was reinstated as “AA-“ and Moody’s was reinstated as “A1”.   Ratings had been previously removed because the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts (APA) was monitoring the City.  The City’s Finance Team drove to Richmond to present the City’s financial plan directly to the APA. The designation of “potentially distressed” was removed and the APA supports the City’s fiscal plan for going forward. 

Economic Development is Essential

**Reduce the burden on our residents – Two factors will help ease the burden on residents. Increased incoming revenue from economic development, and decreasing debt service payments in FY2023, will enable the City to lower taxes while at the same time not affecting the services that all residents expect.
**Economic Development - Revenue from Economic Development will enable the City to continue to provide the services that residents expect.
**Increased revenue will fund capital needs such as street work, existing building maintenance, mechanical replacements, and improved technology that will bring greater efficiency.

Core Services

**Balance - Manassas Park is a City of modest means and there is always an effort to balance limited resources across all parts of the City. We have funded the core services (Schools, Police and Fire) to the best of our ability, as well as other Departments; and we will continue to do so.


**Route 28 - As our City’s representative to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), it was my great pleasure to vote (with other NVTA members) for approval of $89 Million towards improvements for the Route 28 Corridor from Manassas, through Manassas Park to the Fairfax County line. This is a quality of life issue for everyone who travels Route 28.
Manassas Park, through the years, has lobbied for congestion relief on this heavily traveled Route 28 corridor, placing this important issue on the City’s Legislative Agenda sent to Richmond. We will continue to push for improvements.

Fiscal Improvement through
Careful Financial Management

Fiscal Stability is an Important Goal. There has been steady improvement in the City’s fiscal position.
Although there is still work to be done, PROGRESS has been made:
**Proactive refinancing of eligible City debt saved the City $2 million in debt service payments, due to low interest rates in the winter. This will be used to increase City Reserves.
**Tight budgeting and stronger internal controls - We only spend what is necessary, especially during times of economic uncertainty. More efficient processes have been established to enable tracking of all funds coming into and leaving the City.
**Financial Reserves – at the conclusion of FY2016 the City was in a negative fiscal position, but due to careful management, the City is now in a positive position with modest reserves. This will help the City withstand recession.
**Restoration of City Credit Ratings – Standard & Poor’s rating was reinstated as “AA-“ and Moody’s was reinstated as “A1”.   Ratings had been previously removed because the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts (APA) was monitoring the City.  The City’s Finance Team drove to Richmond to present the City’s financial plan directly to the APA. The designation of “potentially distressed” was removed and the APA supports the City’s fiscal plan for going forward.
Continued Economic Development
Efforts are Essential

In order to maintain a strong City, we must have increased commercial revenue to reduce the tax burden on existing residents. Our City has been overly dependent upon residential taxation, so economic development must be a continuing priority, but this will not be accomplished over night.

Economic Development will help us to more effectively do the following:
**Reduce the burden on our residents – Two factors will help ease the burden on residents. Increased incoming revenue from economic development, and decreasing debt service payments in FY2023, will enable the City to lower taxes while at the same time not affecting the services that all residents expect.
**Support the core services – Revenue from Economic development will enable the City to better support the core services (Schools, Police and Fire) and all City Departments.
**Tackle the City’s infrastructure projects – Increased Revenue from Economic Development will fund capital needs such as existing building maintenance, mechanical replacements, and improved technology that will bring greater efficiency.
The key to doing all of this will be careful financial management, and economic development. 
Economic development has the potential to bring millions into the City.
I will continue to push for these goals because they are essential for a strong City.


January 2020

Refinance of Existing Debt
     The Governing Body approved a staff recommendation to refinance several debt series in order to take advantage of lower interest rates to reduce the annual debt payment amounts through the life of existing debt. Due to better than expected interest rates, the City was able to save about $2 Million instead of the planned $1.66 Million. Please note that this refinancing does NOT push off any debt responsibilities into the future, it simply reduces the amount the City needs to pay due to lower interest rates.
     Placing these savings into the Rainy Day Fund will help the City’s cash flow, and enable the City to better weather a future recession. The City is gradually strengthening its fiscal position through proactive debt refinancing, tight budget controls, establishment of a formal City Fiscal Policy, sustained efforts for collection of delinquent taxes and fees, and generally more efficient financial processes.

Solid Waste and Recycling Issues
     I have had many questions about solid waste pickup and recycling, and would like to address the challenges that the City faces, as well as challenges facing the industry.
     It is not only a challenge for our City but it is a nationwide challenge. Recycling issues first became apparent several years ago. In 2016 China processed about half the worlds exports of waste plastic, paper and metals. China was the world destination for millions of tons of scrap material to be recycled. However, the materials entering China contained a level of contamination that not only affected their profits but also forced them to classify the material as standard waste and then dispose of it as we might here in the US. The contamination standard that China would accept had been about 3%-10% allowed contamination, but they reduced that to 1.5% and then reduced it again in 2018 to .5% allowed contamination. This standard is almost impossible to attain by many in the industry. Across the US thousands of tons of material left curbside for recycling have gone into landfills. It is expected that by 2030 over 100 million metric tons of plastic waste alone will be displaced.
     Contamination affects about 25% of the items placed in recycling and makes them not eligible to recycle. Examples are:
**A pizza box containing grease on its interior cannot be recycled
**Glass that is broken into pieces too small to sort is not able to be recycled, and those smaller pieces contaminate cardboard and paper
**Water or fluids left in a glass container will also contaminate paper.
**Likewise, a newspaper wet from the rain cannot be recycled.
**Boxes with the plastic strapping tape still attached to the box.
     An added complication to this is that the value of recyclable materials varies depending upon market forces. Recycling costs can be up to about $4,000 per ton. When oil and gas prices are low, it is actually cheaper to use these raw materials to produce plastic, than to produce plastic using recycled material. So when oil and gas prices are low, and with China’s new contamination standard, there is no profit in the sale of recycled material. There might be a time in the future when oil and natural gas prices increase to the point where we may see the mining of landfills in order to retrieve recyclable materials, but that time is not now.
     The industry is now grappling with the magnitude of the problem. Tipping fees for solid waste and tipping fees for recycling have increased. There is also a contamination fee charged per ton to the haulers for any recycling materials that arrive contaminated. And now we have been informed that glass will no longer be accepted as a material to recycle. Only in Fairfax County is glass being taken because they have a plant that uses it to manufacture road materials. The City is constantly exploring new ways to address all these issues, and unfortunately the last few years have only brought more challenges for us and for other localities.
Fiscal Policy Adopted
     In order to establish a guide to help properly manage the fiscal future of the City; and to address past issues such as weak reserve levels and a poor cash position leading to short term revenue anticipation borrowing, a Fiscal Policy has been adopted. By 2019 when the City reached its peak debt level, the ratio of debt payments to total general fund budget was almost 25%. Other Cities in Northern Virginia were below 10%. This meant the City was understaffed and actually losing staff due to low pay while struggling to maintain general fund levels. Our challenges did not happen over night and will not be cured overnight, but this guide points us in a positive direction to secure adequate reserves and fund levels, in order to not constantly deplete the general fund.
     On another positive note, the City’s credit ratings from Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s have been reinstated. Ratings were previously removed due to the City being monitored by the Auditor of Public Accounts for possible fiscal distress. That designation has been removed. The S&P rating was reinstated as AA- (which is a high grade) and Moody’s as A1 (which is a medium grade).

July 2019

Decal Reinstatement
     It has become necessary to reinstate the decals displayed on vehicles in the City. There has been a decrease in the number of vehicles being registered in Manassas Park. When the City phased out the decals, there appeared to be sufficient other mechanisms to help insure that vehicles got registered. There is a monthly DMV download and other City data available for crosschecking. Unfortunately this does not appear to have worked.
     The City is not able to determine the exact amount of the loss, due to software issues. But we do know there is a loss because there is not the expected number of vehicles being registered.
     Sometimes when there is a transition of this nature, there can be a residual loss, and that residual loss can be made up for by savings from reductions in the administration of the process. Sadly, that was not the case here, and loss was greater than anticipated. At the time the Governing Body eliminated the decal, we said that we would reinstate the decal if problems occurred and that is currently being done. In addition, the decal color will change from year to year to help ensure compliance.

City Finances
     The Commonwealth’s Auditor of Pubic Accounts (APA) will no longer monitor the City for Fiscal Distress Early Warning. Previously the City had received a Fiscal Distress letter from the APA because of the City’s high debt level, the lack of financial reserves and delayed completion of audits. Since that time, the City has completed its FY16 and FY17 audits, and has also completed the APA assessment questionnaire along with additional information related to budget processes, debt, borrowing, expenses and payables, revenues and receivable, staffing and other variables. The City’s Finance Team personally visited the office of the Auditor of Public Accounts in Richmond to provide a deeper understanding of Manassas Park’s budget and finance policies, other factors that positively affect the city, and the financial strategies and plans the city has in place to continue to improve its financial position.
     Everyone was gratified to learn that the Auditor of Public Accounts concluded that the City no longer appears to be in a situation of fiscal distress that would require assistance or intervention from the Commonwealth. So no further notifications or recommendations will be forthcoming from the Auditor of Public Accounts.
     It is necessary for the city to focus on building up reserves. As some background information: in 2013 the city refinanced existing debt with the Virginia Resources Authority (VRA). As a part of the refinance, the City agreed to a covenant requiring a 15% reserve (unobligated fund balance to operating budget ratio). Due to financial challenges, the over forecasting of revenue, the over reliance on proffer funds and other factors, the 15% reserve level was not maintained. Since the City represents about 1.5% of all VRA debt, they keep a close eye on the City.
      When the VRA was presented with the City’s plan to improve its fiscal situation, they were satisfied and agreed not to penalize the City. They could have required the city to hire a consultant to develop a plan to build reserves but decided that was not necessary when given the city’s existing plan.
     In addition to stronger reserves enabling the City to not be in violation of the 2013 covenant; reserves will also help the City avoid cash shortfalls, more adequately fund Capital expenditures and be better able to deal with recessions without staff lay-offs.

Road Repair
     Each spring, our Public Works Department does a street survey and develops a list of sites in the City, which require pothole repair or other more permanent repair. Potholes are fixed with hot patch, and that takes about 2 weeks. This is prior to the mowing season because Public Works staff time is stretched, and they must carefully organize and prioritize duties in order to complete all their tasks. After the initial pothole repair, during the rest of the year potholes are fixed on a complaint basis. Staff will go out and do an assessment as to what is needed.
     If potholes are too bad for a hot patch, then they need more permanent work on them. In this case they would not be fixed in the spring and would be part of a later project. If potholes are located on a section of very damaged roadway, then the pothole repair would wait for milling and paving of that roadway. Likewise, if there is any underground work that is needed, such as valve repair, that work is done during the summer. After completion of underground work, then road surface repair takes place. For whatever projects the City does there is a continued effort to save on costs by, for example, scheduling similar repairs together in order to save on contractor mobilization costs. And there is always an effort to save tax dollars by searching for the best prices on materials.

Manassas Park - 2nd Safest City in Virginia
     Our City has again made the list of Virginia’s statistically safest Cities as rated by Manassas Park has moved up to 2nd place in Virginia based upon FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics in conjunction with internal research and the elimination of cities with a less than 10,000 population. Congratulations to all our public safety employees, who make Manassas Park a safe place to live, work, and raise a family.
For more details go to:

February 2019

Wireless Communication Infrastructure (small cell towers)

Bills previously passed in the General Assembly (SB405 and HB1258) hinder the ability of a locality to regulate the installation of small cell facilities.  For example, the City cannot require a Conditional Use Permit, cannot require the applicant to provide justification for installation, and cannot require that the applicant post a surety bond.  So zoning review has essentially been limited to administrative zoning review, and approval must be granted except in very limited situations; such as material potential interference with other communication facilities, a threat to public safety, if size requirements in state law are not followed or the facilities do not meet federal requirements.
     The City may only regulate for aesthetic reasons under rare circumstances.  If an application were to be made to place a small cell facility on a public building, for example, then the City would be able to deny the application for aesthetic reasons.  But if the installation were on a private structure located within public right-of-way (light pole), or on private property, then the City would not be able to deny the application for solely aesthetic reasons.  In each case where the City could not deny an application, an applicant could voluntarily offer to limit any visual or aesthetic concerns but it would not be required to do so.
     A public hearing was held, and then a vote was taken at the subsequent meeting.  Although the Governing Body was not happy with the restrictions placed upon the City, the Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment was passed, in accordance with VA Code, in order to take advantage of what little regulatory authority is available to localities.

City Audits and Financial Management
     The City continues to take proactive steps to implement good financial procedures and establish internal controls. Some of the earlier unfortunate events in the City affecting financial management included a catastrophic software failure, data loss and the rocky and incomplete implementation of new software. Despite these problems the FY16 and FY17 audits have been completed. The City’s next focus is addressing the Fiscal Distress letter received from the Auditor of Public Accounts. This letter was sent to the city indicating Manassas Park was being monitored because of the City’s high debt level, the lack of financial reserves and delayed completion of the audits.
     So as a part of helping to address the Fiscal Distress issue and to augment good financial management, the City requested legislation in the VA General Assembly to help our City achieve proper accounting and financial management. This legislation would provide legal justification for the City’s Finance Department to request a non-disclosure agreement with our elected Constitutional Officers.
     Having access to necessary financial data would assist our Finance Department to perform a variety of responsibilities such as accurately managing the City’s General Ledger, insuring accuracy in any preparations for City Audits, assisting with economic forecasting, accurately accounting for City revenues, and a variety of other finance-related duties.
     City Finance Directors are legally able to see business information for retail businesses and restaurants via the Sales Tax and the Meals Tax data, but are not able to see information for other businesses that pay Business License Taxes. Accounting for Business revenues is one area where the City has not performed well. A non-disclosure would allow for this and provide the Finance Director access to the same information that IT professionals are able to access.
     At the current time, IT departments and the actual financial software companies do sign non-disclosure agreements with Constitutional Officers, and this enables the IT folks and the software contractors to see the financial data related to BPOL, Real Estate and Personal Property taxes, and thus be able to confirm that IT applications and software are running properly.
     Both of our state representatives submitted identical pieces of draft legislation designed to facilitate the signing of non-disclosure agreements. This legislation would have given all Cities in our situation legal justification in VA Code to request the signing of non-disclosures. Unfortunately this legislation was not successful, and the lobbying efforts of the opposition were too great for the City to overcome. The City will continue to explore all other options that enhance good financial management.

NVTA Projects Provide Positive Economic Impact

     A study was done to determine the economic impact of Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) capital investments, and was in addition to a study done in 2016, which focused on economic impacts within Northern VA.
     Three impact areas were considered which together included benefits from specific projects, materials, labor, specialized software, and rental equipment; as well as the impact of payroll spending of people working on the projects. The direct impact of NVTA funding resulted in the generation of 13,600 jobs, and when the indirect induced impact is considered, the total impact to the Region is about 23,400 regional jobs, and 26,000 jobs throughout the Commonwealth.
     Since the NVTA is seldom the only funding source for projects, NVTA project investments of $1.9 Billion in projects triggered an added $3.8 Billion in local, state or federal funding for a total impact of $5.7 Billion in investments for critical transportation infrastructure in Northern VA. This impact will actually be even greater because the stated impact value does not include economic benefits, and the quality of life benefits, of having the projects actually completed.
     These benefits help to elevate the importance of complete restoration of the two NVTA revenue streams that were lost through General Assembly action in the 2018 session. This consists of revenue not available for regional projects across the Northern VA region, and also the 30% funding which comes back to the localities for their individual transportation uses. The lost revenue totals almost $400 Million over the course of the NVTA’s Six Year Program and this should be restored to the NVTA in order to fund needed transportation projects.

August 2018

FY2019 City Budget
     The FY19 Manassas Park Budget was voted on and passed on June 19th. There was an attempt to not only balance the budget financially, but also to do it with a balanced approach regarding all departments. No budget is ever perfect, but it was the best that could be accomplished on behalf of the City. Due to the high debt level acquired in previous decades, the debt service spiked again this year by about $720,000. So the debt service for FY2019 that the City must pay is at the historically high level of $10,745,988. This is about 24% of the City Budget, and seriously limited all choices that could be made on behalf of the City, its residents and staffers. The debt service will level off during the next several years, and even though finances will continue to be somewhat tight, balancing the FY2019 budget was especially difficult. The City was forced to defer capital improvements totaling about $726,000.
     We understand that we cannot kick the “capital improvement” can down the road indefinitely, but this was needed in order to help balance the budget. Likewise, we did not establish any recurring costs for the City. This was important because any recurring costs would roll forward into future budgets, and make it more difficult to balance those futures budgets if the US economy experiences a recession.

NVTA Funding Streams
     During the 2018 General Assembly Session, state representatives voted to provide funding for Metro. This was accomplished, in part, by diverting two of the three revenue streams that the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) depends upon to fund congestion relieving transportation projects. Those 2 revenue streams were the Transient Occupancy Tax (hotel tax) and the Grantors Tax (levied on home sellers at closing). Since Manassas Park has no hotels the Transient Occupancy Tax change does not affect the City. Also since Manassas Park, Manassas and Prince William County are not member localities of the WMATA Compact, our portions of the Grantors Tax that would normally come to us will likewise not be affected. That portion will be directed back to our 3 localities.
     However, this revenue diversion will have an overall effect on the ability of the NVTA to fund projects across the region. There are many unmet transportation needs across Northern Virginia, as we all know from our direct experiences with congestion. Early indicators are that the NVTA will lose about $80 Million per year through the loss of the 2 revenue streams. Over the life of the Six Year Program, which contains many worthy projects, the revenue decreases will be an over $270 Million loss in PayGo revenue, and a decrease in the NVTA’s bonding ability.
     Fortunately this redirection of NVTA revenue did not have an effect on the NVTA’s credit rating. It remains strong and was just recently affirmed by Moody’s to be Aa1. It is more likely that rating agencies will look past the NVTA, and will question why the state is disrupting the revenue streams of a well-functioning organization like the NVTA, and will ask why the state cannot afford to provide more funding for transit without looking to the revenue of an existing transportation entity.

Route 28
     Despite reduced NVTA funding, the NVTA did pass its FY2018-2023 Six Year Program that includes 44 regionally significant projects. These projects are located across the Northern Virginia region, and scored well on the established criteria used to evaluate each one.
     Funding for Route 28 was a part of this approval. Most of the questions that I receive are regarding the section of Route 28 from Manassas through Manassas Park to the Fairfax County line. The NVTA approved $3.5 Million to fully fund the Federal Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for Route 28 alignments for this project. The EIS is required prior to the final alignment selection and the start of design and construction. Likewise, although $145 Million was requested, a partial construction cost approval of $89 Million was made, which still leaves a funding gap to be filled from other sources. This section of Route 28 corridor improvements was also submitted to the State’s Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) for consideration for SMART SCALE funding. This construction request includes right-of-way, any utility relocation, as well as other environmentally related costs.
     The Route 28 widening from the Prince William/Fairfax County line to Route 29, also received partial funding, the cost balance being funded from another source other than the NVTA. Several other areas of the Route 28 corridor also received NVTA funding, bringing the total funding approval to about $143.5 Million for all sections of the Route 28 corridor in the NVTA’s recently adopted Six Year Program. In prior funding programs the NVTA has approved about $114 Million in funding for Route 28 improvements.
     Our City has continuously lobbied for congestion relief on Route 28, and there is much cause for optimism that there is finally progress towards improvement of this very important corridor. It has been my privilege to represent Manassas Park on the NVTA during the time that this funding has been approved for Route 28. In addition to being the City’s NVTA representative, I also serve as Vice-Chair of the NVTA Finance Committee and am a member of the NVTA’s Planning and Programming Committee.

Sanitary Sewer Lining
     The sanitary sewer system experiences infiltration of ground water into the sewer system pipes through leaks and cracks in those pipes. This is generally referred to as infiltration and inflow (I&I). This I&I consumes the City’s allocated capacity at the Upper Occoquan Service Authority treatment plant, and results in added costs for sewage treatment because of increased sewer flow during wet weather. Public Works has, and will continue, to install pipe liner. It is an excellent way to rehabilitate pipe, reduce I&I in the City, and can be done without any excavation. The most recent contract approval for pipe lining represented over 8,000 feet of linear pipe lining. With completion of this recent work, it is anticipated that the City will have lined about 75% of the required work to be done.

April 2018 Issues Below

Manassas Park to Participate in Northern Virginia Cigarette Tax Board (NVCTB)
     The NVCTB is a regional agency established in 1970 & currently consists (as of this writing) of 18 local jurisdictions. The Board’s responsibility is to administer and enforce the local Cigarette Tax Ordinance for all member jurisdictions. Our City wants to ensure that we are not under-collecting cigarette tax revenue that is due to the City. A retailer might try to avoid a higher tax rate by purchasing properly stamped cigarettes in a locality with a lower tax rate, and then reselling them in a higher tax locality. Any store could quite easily supplement their cigarette stock through purchases from Wal-Mart located just across the jurisdictional boundary in Prince William County. NVCTB Agents conduct field inspections of all retail establishments in the member locality in order to insure proper stamping and payment of the appropriate tax.
     There are no upfront costs for the City to join. The yearly cost to the City was estimated at about $4,000, but will be compensated for by bringing in an average of about $5,000 or more in lost revenue. If this initiative does not prove beneficial, the City can pull out of NVCTB membership at any time by sending a letter indicating City desire to pull out.
     A letter was drafted from the City to the NVCTB requesting membership. Their Board will need to meet and vote in order to allow the City to join. The City would then pass a Resolution enabling the NVCTB to collect fees, pass the ordinance and sign the agreement. A representative to the NVCTB would be appointed and then the NVCTB would notify wholesalers who would notify retailers that the City had joined. Businesses are given 30-90 days to sell out of the old stamps prior to use of the new stamps.

Upper Occoquan Service Authority (UOSA) Water Quality Exchange Agreement
     As mentioned in previous mailers, Manassas Park has a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit, which is administered by Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VA DEQ). The MS4 requirements were driven by the EPA’s approval of the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) pollutant requirements flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. Manassas Park has little flexibility within the MS4 Permit, and the City must accommodate these requirements as an unfunded mandate now and into the future. The Permit requires that the City reduce pollutants flowing into the watershed; and to accomplish this by developing, implementing and enforcing a storm water management program in accordance with the timeline contained in the MS4 General Permit. This is very expensive and Manassas Park welcomes any assistance for this.
     UOSA also has permit requirements for the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and suspended solids that may be released. UOSA consistently treats and releases effluent that is cleaner than their permit requires. As a result they possess credits because of their excellent treatment record. It is now legal under Virginia statute for a regional MS4 jurisdiction (such as our City) to use credits generated by dischargers such as UOSA, in order to aid the jurisdiction in their compliance strategies regarding MS4 permit requirements. In November UOSA staff began to explore making these credits available to UOSA member jurisdictions.
     This arrangement will not affect any UOSA fees. Also, it will not cost UOSA anything extra since the four member localities of UOSA have already paid to have the effluent treated. Likewise, there are no added charges to the member localities.
     Since there are no future guarantees of UOSA producing credits, this arrangement would be on a historical basis: credits used after the quantity has been earned and determined. So the City would not count on these credits from year to year, but instead use them as they become available. Likewise they are one-time credits, and do not extend into the future as would credits purchased from a nutrient bank. So the one-time credits can be used to postpone but not replace expensive City MS4 projects. This would stretch out the implementation time and allow the City financial flexibility for expensive MS4 projects.

Third Safest City in Virginia
     Manassas Park has again made the list of Virginia’s safest Cities by Our City has increased its rating from the 6th to the 3rd safest city in VA.  The National Council for Home Safety and Security reviewed the most recent FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics, in combination with their population data and their internal research. They eliminated any cities that did not submit a complete crime report to the FBI and also removed cities with a population of under 10,000. Congratulations to all of our pubic safety employees, who make Manassas Park a safe place to live, work and raise a family.

January 2018 Issues Below

City Finances
Manassas Park still faces challenges due to the high debt burden incurred in previous decades. The debt service increased for the FY2018 budget, and will increase again by about $700,000 for the FY2019 budget. The City anticipates being able to accommodate the increase through careful stewardship of funds and a nearly flat budget.
     Also requiring our attention is the completion of the FY2016 Audit. The Audit remains incomplete primarily as a result of data loss, which the City is currently trying to reconstruct. In November 2015 there was a catastrophic failure of the Financial Software, and there was not sufficient interim and historical data to enable an adequate transition to new Financial Software. The implementation of the new software has been somewhat rocky, but the City continues to work through that.
     Also in 2015, prior to the software failure, there was a temporary evacuation from City Hall due to fumes produced during the process of installing a new roof on the building because its age caused constant leaking. A standard metal seam roof was not recommended due to the roof pitch and associated difficulties. Instead the recommendation was a waterproof membrane covering with 20-year warrantee. The adhesive used in the process produced fumes, and it was necessary for staff to leave the building during the process. This project took longer than anticipated and resulted in operational impacts from using temporary working accommodations.
     There were also historical errors in previous Audits that went unreported and unnoticed. Incorrect numbers were in the previous Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) and this caused an inaccurate starting position for the FY2016 Audit. So the City has engaged a new Audit firm. Corrections will be made, data recovery efforts are ongoing, and there will be a high level of detail for all accounting going forward.
     Because the FY16 Audit was not completed on time, the City received a letter from the VA Auditor of Public Accounts. They determine a FAM Score (Fiscal Assessment Model Score) for localities all across Virginia. The letter was a standard inquiry because our FY16 Audit was not completed on time, and as such was routine, and was not sent because there were any concerns for the City’s fiscal health.
     The City will continue to focus on operational efficiencies; on prudent allocation of resources and funding; on creating new protocols and procedures; and on establishing strong internal controls. These efforts will strengthen financial stability and enable us to maintain a focus on the services that residents have come to expect, and that keep our City strong.

Exploring Sale of City’s Water System
The City is currently exploring ways to effectively deal with our costly water/sewer system by stabilizing water/sewer costs at a lower rate. This includes seeking out private companies or other public municipalities or utilities that might be interested in purchasing our system.
     There are several reasons why Manassas Park is considering the sale of its system.
     First, the City’s goal is to stabilize water and sewer costs at a lower rate. We know rates are high, we all pay those rates, and this is a very basic reason why we are exploring sale of the system. Lower rates might be obtained through sale to a private company that has lower equalized rates across Virginia, or perhaps through sale to a larger municipal water/sewer system already having lower rates, and then providing those same lower rates to our residents.
     Also, our City does not have the economies of scale that larger systems and private companies have when they make system repairs and needed infrastructure replacement. Manassas Park faces high costs that are associated with the maintenance of our system because of the age of our infrastructure, which has deteriorated over time.
     We do not know if we will be successful; however, we continue to perform our due diligence, and to carefully explore options that will provide the greatest benefit to residents in terms of lower rates and needed infrastructure repairs, while at the same time maintaining a high quality of water. We will also ensure that we receive a fair return on past investments placed into the system. And, we will provide updates to residents periodically as we acquire new information.

Route 28 Congestion Relief
The Phase Two Route 28 congestion relief study has resulted in four final alternatives. These are being submitted to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) for inclusion in their Six Year Program project list. Projects on this list will be evaluated by established criteria to determine the order in which funding will be provided. The Route 28 alternatives will be evaluated using these criteria.
     The funding requested for the first stage of the project will be the Environmental Impact Study (EIS). Prince William County is administering the Route 28 project, and they have indicated they will attempt to expedite the environmental part of the process. There is some concern that two of the four alternatives have sufficient environmental concerns that they may not survive the EIS and therefore will not receive approval. If this is the case then another environmental study will be started on the next highest scoring alternative as soon as possible. Once the EIS has been successfully completed on one of the alternatives then other phases will move forward: corridor design, purchasing the right-of-way, and then construction.

July 2017 Issues Below

Successful FY2018 Budget
As we all know, the debt service owed by the City spiked by several million dollars for the FY2018 budgeting year. This was a real challenge for our City to surmount. All Departments brought forward the leanest departmental budgets possible. So the budget that was analyzed and eventually voted on by the Governing Body was balanced and needs based. It was balanced through several mechanisms. First, City debt that was eligible was re-financed for significant savings. Second, about a half dozen City staff positions will go unfilled in order to achieve savings there. And third, some capital improvement projects will be postponed, with the knowledge that we cannot kick the can down the road indefinitely for these projects.
     The City was able to provide a modest increase in funding to the Schools, and a 1% pay raise for staff (plus an added Public Safety increase of .05%)
     We were mindful that the City must be careful not to establish significant recurring costs, because the debt service will again spike next year for the FY2019 budgeting season. The next increase will not be as great as this fiscal year, but will nevertheless have an affect on the budget. Many thanks to all staff who worked hard to make the FY2018 budget a lean one. We will continue to pursue savings at every opportunity.

Removal of Requirement to Display Vehicle Decal
     The removal of this requirement has come up several times for discussion by the Governing Body over the last several years. Recently a very thorough report was provided to the Governing Body to assist us with our deliberations. A public hearing was held May 2nd, public comments were received, and at the May 16th meeting, council voted to approve removal of the decal display requirement.
     It was felt that decals were no longer needed due to electronic advancements. Decals were simply the physical representation that the license fee has been paid on the vehicle. So please NOTE: All residents of Manassas Park must still pay their vehicle license fees.
     Right now not all residents put their decal on their vehicle despite the fact they have paid their license fee, and have the decal. And about 50% of the localities in the Commonwealth have phased out the use of decals. For example, Manassas City, Prince William County, Vienna, Culpepper and Fauquier County no longer issue the actual decal. Manassas City indicated to us that they experienced no negative impacts from their decal phase out.
     There are options that the Commissioner of Revenue can use to keep City records current. There is a monthly electronic download from the DMV that contains all the vehicles listed as being garaged in our City. If someone moves into the City midmonth, then they will be listed in the DMV download the following month.
     When someone accidently registers their vehicle to another jurisdiction, such as Manassas, that Commissioner of Revenue office over there logs into the DMV files and corrects that mistake. Likewise our Commissioner corrects mistakes for other localities.
     Also, our Treasurers Office provides to the Commissioner of Revenue, copies of all water and sewer applications (both owners and renters) of those who move into the City. This is another way for the Commissioner of Revenue to know who is moving into the City and therefore who probably owns a vehicle.  And the City will issue reminders to register vehicles and to pay vehicle license fees, by placing notices in the utility bills from time to time.
     Next is Enforcement. There is most definitely enforcement and ticketing in the neighborhoods. The Police Department will continue working with the Treasurer and the Commissioner of Revenue to identify violators. The Police Department will assist by having patrols routinely and periodically check problem areas, identify violators and forward the appropriate information for enforcement.
     In addition to the removal of the requirement to display a decal, there is also a fee increase to cover the administrative costs that have increased over time for processing the license fees. There has not been an increase since 2000, and that’s 17 years. Prior to that there was no increase since 1985. The departments did a general tally of staff time spent on processing license fees, the increase in the number of accounts processed, etc. and this demonstrated the need for a fee increase. In the last several decades, both the Treasures Office and the Commissioner of Revenue have each converted one part time employee to a full time employee. So the 2 part time conversions combined resulted in a staffing impact of one full time employee being added.    
     The population of our City has also increased. In 2000 the population of the MP was 10,290 (US census data) and now the population has exceeded 16,000 (Weldon Cooper stats). With greater population came an increased number of vehicle license fees to process. These numbers indicate about a 56% increase in license fee handling alone. For these reasons, we felt that the processing of these fees and this service required a $6 fee increase. In this way the fees charged for a particular service will fully fund the service that is provided.
     The City will closely monitor incoming revenue, projected revenue and any other issues over the next few years to determine how successful these changes are.

Manassas Park Named 6th Safest City in Virginia
     Our City has again made the list of Virginia’s safest Cities by Manassas Park has moved up to 6th place in Virginia based upon FBI crime statistics in conjunction with internal research and population data. Congratulations to all of our public safety employees, who make Manassas Park a safe place to live, work and raise a family.
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