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March 05, 2011

City Manager Jones to present ‘cautiously optimistic’ budget for FY2012

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By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, March 5, 2011

Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones will present a proposed $142.9 million general fund budget for FY2012 to City Council Monday night, a 1.55% increase from the current year. 

The city is not recommending any increases in taxes or fees, and there are no proposed reductions in services.

“We’ve developed a budget that takes into consideration where we are economically,” Jones said during an interview Friday.

Download Download proposed city budget for FY2012

“We still have a slowly developing economy so what we’ve tried to do is hold the line on taxes and spending to ensure that we are in a good position to continue to provide the high quality services that folks have come to expect.”

General-fund-summary
(Source: City of Charlotesville) Click to enlarge

Even though residential real estate assessments experienced a slight decline, overall assessments were up 0.63%, generating a projected $800,000 in additional tax revenue.

“We didn’t see as significant a drop in our assessments as we had feared,” Jones said.

The proposed budget consists of a $130.2 million operating budget, a ‘designated budget’ of $12 million (which includes pupil transportation, some capital items, and debt service) and a $716,784 contribution to the city’s economic downturn fund. That last figure is significantly lower than the amount budgeted for the current year.

“We’ve built in the economic downturn fund just in case we suffered a significant drop in state funding or revenues,” Jones said. “Because our departments have returned money back to us, we have not had to tap into those funds.”

As of now, the downturn fund contains $5.5 million, according to Jones. If revenue collections stay on target during the rest of the current fiscal year, the balance will be around $8.3 million.

“At some point Council will have to make a decision as to what to use it for,” Jones said. “Our recommendation would be to utilize it for one-time projects.”

The biggest expenditure change in the proposed FY2012 budget is a $1.7 million increase in the amount of funding to the school division to help fill a budget deficit caused by a reduction in state funding. That’s a 4.34% increase over the current year.

In addition, Jones and Beauregard are recommending a capital improvement program budget of $23.44 million.

Major capital projects include a new Fontaine Fire Station at a cost of $8.75 million. The University of Virginia is contributing $750,000 towards that project. Sidewalks and drainage features will be installed on Old Lynchburg Road at a cost of $3 million.

An additional $300,000 will be spent to design and construct new sidewalks. The city’s tree commission will oversee a $51,500 in funding for urban tree preservation and planning.  Another $1 million will be added to the Charlottesville Housing Fund, but Jones is predicting that will increase before the budget is adopted.

“Council made it clear at the last city council that they wanted us to fund it beyond a million dollars,” Jones said. “Before this budget is approved, we’ll find another $400,000 to add to that.”

Following the presentation Monday night, Council will hold a series of work sessions to review the different areas of the budget. They will hold a public hearing on March 21, a community budget forum on March 23, and a second public hearing on April 4. Council is set to adopt the budget at a special meeting on April 12.

Other highlights in the budget:

  • Budget halves amount to be paid for remediation of Ivy Landfill from $500,000 in current fiscal year to $250,000.
  • The Dialogue on Race has been extended another year at a cost of $90,000.
  • City employees will receive a 2% cost of living increase. Some positions may see a market rate adjustment.
  • $60,000 will be spent to comply with federal mandate that all traffic signs be reflective to increase visibility at night.
  • City will pay a 12% increase in health care benefits.
  • City’s summer youth internship program to be expanded from 90 to 130 youths at a cost of $36,361.
  • Most outside agencies were level-funded. A notable exception is the Charlottesville Commission on Children and Families, which will receive a 13.48% increase to cover additional rent the group has to pay.
  • The Jefferson-Madison Regional Library will receive a 1% increase in funding for a total of $1.382 million in city funding.
  • The SPCA will receive an additional $45,142 for a total of $211,090 due to a 2009 agreement for the city and county to increase funds to operate their facility on Berkmar Drive

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