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November 20, 2008

Council votes to support legislation for local funding options for transit and transportation

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The Charlottesville City Council has voted to support legislation that would allow the City and Albemarle County to hold a referendum on up to a one-cent sales tax that would pay for a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) as well as other transportation projects. A working group of Supervisors and Councilors are still crafting the legislation in advance of next year’s General Assembly session. They’ll meet on Tuesday, November 25, 2008 to determine how to proceed. 

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Council has already indicated its support for the legislation when it approved the City’s legislative program. Council has also voted to support enabling legislation that would allow the RTA to be formed.  

“What’s before you tonight is a document that has come through the RTA working group that provides a little more detail and outline to that proposed one-cent sales tax increase,” said Craig Brown, Charlottesville’s City Attorney.  Here are the four points covered in the draft legislation, taken verbatim from the motion Council adopted:

  • The City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle would be authorized to levy a local sales tax of up to one cent to be designated and spent solely for the purposes of transit and transportation initiatives.
  • This local sales tax shall be levied only if the tax is approved in a referendum within the City or County in accordance with Virginia Code § 24.2-684 initiated by a resolution of the local governing body.
  • The amount of the local sales tax, not to exceed one cent, would be adopted by ordinance. The transit and transportation initiatives to be funded by the local sales tax would be determined by each locality.
  • The initiatives would be limited to transit costs, including funding for each locality’s share of the cost of a Regional Transit Authority, and transportation projects selected from the region’s Constrained Long Range Plan, the City’s Urban Road Program, or the County’s Secondary Road

Other communities across Virginia had flirted with the idea of pursuing regional authorities as a way of generating local funds for transportation and transit projects. Jurisdictions in the Richmond area have opted not to go forward for this year.  Brown said the prognosis did not look good for Charlottesville-Albemarle’s efforts.

“The prospects for this being passed this year by the General Assembly are not good,” Brown said.
After making a motion to approve the specific legislative request, Councilor Satyendra Huja said he did not see any reference to the fall-back options that are available to some other regional authorities under HB3202 (legislation approved in 2007). Attorney  Brown said the request would be submitted to the state Division of Legislative Services to draft the legislation, and that the area’s legislators can be made aware of the fall-back position. 

Sean Tubbs


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