By Sean Tubbs
Friday, February 26, 2010
Albemarle County Executive Bob Tucker has unveiled a budget for FY2011 that is 3.4% less than the current year, and 11.9% less than that for FY2009. The proposed budget of $293.8 million is based on a 74.2 cent tax rate, though lower property assessments translate into a projected $1.9 million reduction in revenue from property taxes.
Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100225-BOS-Budget
“The budget confronts the difficult realities of reshaping our organization while attempting to establish reasonable expectations for local government services in a time of significantly reduced revenues,” Tucker told the Board at a briefing on Thursday. “Balancing this budget creates very difficult choices that will change the nature of our service levels and funding support in fundamental ways.”
Tucker has proposed an operating budget of $266.5 million, a capital budget of $8 million, and $18.5 million in revenue sharing funds for the City of Charlottesville. Tucker also suggests an $800,000 shortfall contingency fund in case revenues are lower than expected.
The various cuts continue a restructuring that Tucker says the county has been working towards since the economic downturn began in 2007. With a total of 78 positions either frozen or eliminated since 2007, Albemarle will have as many local government employees as it did in 2002.
Among those 78 positions are 5 police officers. The County has a goal of having 1.5 officers per 1,000 residents, but the actual ratio is closer to 1.2 according to Bryan Elliot, the county’s assistant county executive for community services.
“This action is translating into increased response times for both urban and rural parts of the county to priority-one calls,” Elliot said.
At least one position has been unfrozen. Deputy County Executive Tom Foley said a “business auditor” will be restored in order to track down unpaid taxes. The move is one recommendation from a efficiency study conducted last year by the Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University. Additionally, a building inspector will be reassigned to staff the county’s new land use revalidation program.
Affordable housing initiatives will be reduced with the County saving $190,000 by eliminating its down payment assistance program. A housing counselor position has also been cut, and rental subsidies for the Wood’s Edge apartment complex will be phased out.
However, some expenditures had to be increased due to state mandates and other cost increases, including a $203,450 increase in funding for the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Last year, the SPCA argued that both Charlottesville and Albemarle were not paying their fair share to the agency, which is the region’s official animal shelter. The county will also pay an additional $426,000 in employee health and dental benefits.
- Funding for the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library will be reduced by 5%, but Tucker said the county would not support the closing of branches in Scottsville or Crozet.
- Zoning complaints that are not directly related to health and safety will receive a lesser priority from county staff.
- The County will no longer be a member of several organizations, such as the Virginia Municipal League, the Alliance of Innovation and the Virginia Institute for Government. County will continue to be member of economic development agencies such as the Chamber of Commerce and Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development.
- County will no longer help fund “bulk waste amnesty days” held by the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority, saving $22,000.
- Funding for local community development agencies will be reduced between 5% and 10%, including the Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, StreamWatch, and the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District.
- The County will no longer pursue environmental complaints but will forward them on to federal and state officials.
- Efforts to calm traffic in neighborhoods will not be made, as there is no longer a county transportation planner.
- Funding for ACE program will continue for at least one more year, with a one-time $350,000 transfer from transportation balance in the CIP. No more general revenue funding will be used.
- Funding for implementing master plans has been eliminated, meaning no further sidewalks or streetscapes for at least the next five years.
Supervisors had little comment after the briefing. Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) called the budget “sobering news.” Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) said he needed to time to reflect before he could make a comment.
Members of the public can weigh in with their thoughts on the proposed budget at a public hearing to be held next Wednesday at 6:00 PM in Lane Auditorium. After that, the Board will hold a series of work sessions to amend Tucker’s proposed budget before its adoption in early April.
TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:
- 01:00 – Briefing on the budget from County Executive Bob Tucker
- 10:10 – Tucker describes the goals that helped shape the budget
- 12:15 – Tucker discusses highlights in the budget
- 14:30 – Tucker addresses 5% funding cut for library
- 18:30 – Tucker describes how tax rate will affect tax bills, with most resident seeing a decrease
- 21:15 – Deputy County Executive Tom Foley describes how community development services will be affected
- 35:35 – Foley directly address discusses service impacts in community development
- 39:05 – Assistant County Executive Bryan Elliot outlines reductions to community services
- 45:45 – Elliot discusses how affordable housing initiatives are affected by budget
- 50:00 – Elliot addresses how parks and spending on cultural events will be affected
- 53:15 – Elliot describes reduction in funding for Jefferson-Madison Regional Library
- 56:45 – Tucker wraps up the briefing on the budget
- 1:02:30 – Tucker outlines next steps in the budget process