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December 22, 2010

Albemarle supervisors lobby legislators on 2011 legislative agenda

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By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, December 22, 2010


The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will request that the General Assembly change a state formula that calculates its ability to pay for education costs to reflect tax revenues lost due to the land use taxation program.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:   Download 20101221-BOS-Legislators

 “One of consequences of [the land use] program is that we defer about $2.4 billion of real estate value from being taxed,” said county attorney Larry Davis.

Albemarle instituted the land use program in 1975 to allow qualified property owners to pay a lower tax rate if their land is used for agricultural purposes, the harvesting of timber, or preservation of open space.

“If the formula [for the composite index] is truly designed to truly reflect the ability to pay, that land value doesn’t give us income and we can’t use that to pay for schools which is the whole purpose of the composite index,” Davis added.

20101221-BOS-roundtable


However, the concept was met with skepticism at a meeting between supervisors and area legislators Tuesday.

Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25) said the decision to implement the land use program was a local one, and that it would not be fair to recalculate the formula because half of the counties in the state have chosen not to assess agricultural land at less than .

“You’re basically pushing to those people the cost of the decision,” Deeds said. “There’s going to be some resistance to that.” 

Another of Albemarle’s legislative priorities for 2011 is a request to streamline the application process for placing land in agricultural-forest districts. The proposal is to remove one step in the public notification process. Currently the county must advertise three public meetings at which each application is discussed.

 “What we were hoping to eliminate is the first advertisement that has to be done when we refer it to the [ag-forest] committee, which is something we don’t even do for a rezoning,” said Supervisor Ann Mallek.

A major legislative priority for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is an effort to persuade legislators to represent local interests as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mandate to clean up the Chesapeake Bay is implemented. The EPA is placing a pollution diet on Bay States through a process called the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).

 “[The TMDL] was the issue that bubbled to the top among all the localities as being the critical one out there this year,” said David Blount, legislative liaison for the TJPDC.

In November, supervisors were told that Albemarle could be required to invest $5 million to $10 million to retrofit its storm water system to reduce sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous that enters the watershed. Charlottesville officials have estimated it could cost the city between $7 million and $15 million a year.

“The [legislative] program really calls on both the federal and state governments to provide various forms of financial and technical resources, and also be fair in how the requirements of the TMDL are going to be allocated among the various source sectors,” Blount said.

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However, Mallek said she could see the benefit in taking tough steps to clean up Albemarle’s rivers and streams.

“If we solve our own problems for own rivers, over 70% of which are impaired in some way, then we’re helping our local residents and we’re also therefore providing an additive effect to helping those downstream as well,” Mallek said.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker said he supports the goals of the TMDL program, but questions some of the science behind the model upon which the pollution diet is being set.

“It’s really not clear to me how well the science has been advanced on determining actions that may be mandated be taken and what the net effect is going to be on the bay,” Rooker said.

Exact details on what the EPA will require will not become known until the final TMDL is published on December 31.

Rooker also called on legislators to try to do something to support additional revenues for transportation.

“Our secondary road funds have been reduced by 95% over the last six years,” Rooker said. “We’ve been told we may have none next year. We can’t remain competitive as a state if we have virtually no money for secondary roads.”

Delegate David Toscano (D-57) agreed with Rooker, and pointed out that China will build more roads in one year than all of the existing roads in Virginia.

“When you travel the world, there are tremendous economic forces at work and there are many countries in this world that are not playing for second best,” Toscano said. “They’re doing a lot of investment that we’re not doing.”

Earlier this month, Governor Bob McDonnell announced a plan to issue up to $1.8 billion in bonds to pay for transportation projects. The money would be paid for with future federal highway funds. McDonnell also wants to create a transportation infrastructure bank that would provide loans to localities and private companies that seek to build their own roads.

The General Assembly session begins on January 12.

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