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October 12, 2011

Albemarle supervisors to review options for VDOT revenue sharing

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will decide today whether to use nearly $900,000 in funds as a local match for a Virginia Department of Transportation program that seeks to move “shovel-ready” highway projects forward.

Staff had recommended the money be saved for next year, but supervisors said they wanted more options about how VDOT revenue-sharing funds could be used now.

“I think we should put ourselves in a position where we at least have the choice of taking the money,” said Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker at the board’s meeting last week.

Albemarle has previously used the program to supplement funding for its portion of the Meadow Creek Parkway.

image from www.cvillepedia.org
Broomley Bridge

The county also received $1.5 million in the current fiscal year to pay for the replacement of a damaged bridge that carries Broomley Road over railroad tracks.

The city of Charlottesville has recently used the program to help fund a $4.7 million improvement that would add an extra lane at the southbound interchange of U.S. 29 and Emmet Street.

VDOT has accelerated the application process this year; the deadline is usually in the spring but has been moved to the fall. VDOT will match up to $10 million.

Last week, staff suggested Albemarle not participate this year because no projects are considered to be far enough in the planning process for a match to be meaningful, and because it would deplete the county’s transportation capital fund.

“Obligating all or any portion of this amount toward the program significantly reduces the county’s capacity to address other higher priority projects as well as other routine requests for transportation upgrades throughout the county in the short-term,” said chief planner David Benish.

Benish suggested Albemarle save the money until more is known about the impacts the Western Bypass of U.S. 29 will have on the area’s transportation network.

“It may be prudent to hold on to that money for this year and use it more strategically next year,” Benish said. He added city and county staff are discussing the possibility of making a joint application next year, possibly for Hillsdale Drive.

Rooker suggested that funding could be used for sidewalk construction, but Benish said VDOT wants the money to go to new road projects or replacements.

Rooker said he felt the county should proceed with an application, and staff has developed a list of possibilities.

Today’s meeting was originally scheduled to be a work session to review the budget for the social services and information technology departments. However, the meeting was extended to include consideration of the revenue-sharing program as well as adoption of a resolution regarding design for the northern terminus of the Western Bypass.

In November, VDOT will issue an addendum to a request for proposals for design and construction of the bypass.

The Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation issued a press release this week requesting the resolution also ask for opportunities for increasing bike, pedestrian and transit service.

“Since it seems this [addendum] may be the last opportunity for the community to lay out its priorities before the project is put out to bid, we implore you to focus not only on the roadway design, but on design elements that impact the ability of this project to improve bicycle, pedestrian, and transit connectivity in our region, “ wrote Len Schoppa, president of ACCT.

June 22, 2011

Belmont Bridge design coming into focus

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Design work continues on the replacement of Charlottesville’s deteriorating Belmont Bridge, despite an uncertain funding future.

“We want to carefully consider our options with this new bridge,” said Jeannette Janiczek, manager of the city’s urban construction initiative.

Janiczek briefed the City Council on Monday night on the ongoing design of the bridge’s replacement. She wanted the council to weigh in on several design choices that have been made regarding the bridge.

“One of these is that this bridge is a community asset, that it needs to be multi-modal, that it’s a gateway, and that it needs to be safe and attractive,” Janiczek said.

Other design goals include keeping it within the existing right of way and phasing construction so the roadway does not close while the bridge is replaced.

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A cross-section of the bridge depicts two bike lanes, two sidewalks, and three vehicular lanes

Those choices have led planners to design the bridge with bike lanes in both directions of traffic. There will also be a 5-foot-wide sidewalk on the eastern side and an 8-foot-wide sidewalk on the western side.

Councilors were generally supportive of the design’s direction.

“It is an entrance to the downtown area and we want to make sure that it is attractive and welcoming,” Councilor Satyendra Huja said.

Councilor Kristin Szakos asked if there was a way to use the bridge to help shield the Belmont and Carlton neighborhoods from noise from the nTelos Wireless Pavilion.

“We’re not going to do anything to make the sound worse in Belmont, but I don’t think that a sound barrier for that very purpose would be allowed in the funding for the project,” Janiczek said.

The bridge was built in 1961. A study in 2003 determined the bridge’s deck was deteriorating and recommended replacement as a more cost-effective solution than repairing it. The new bridge will be built with an anticipated lifespan of 75 years.

In May, the Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board approved an amendment to its transportation improvement plan that increased the cost estimate for the bridge from $9.2 million to $14.5 million.

In an email sent to Charlottesville Tomorrow earlier this month, Janiczek said the city has so far accrued $4.1 million toward the project.

Last week, the Commonwealth Transportation Board approved $1 million in revenue-sharing funds for the project over the next two years, requiring a $1 million match from the city. However, no other funds from the state are expected until at least 2018 unless the Virginia Department of Transportation’s six-year improvement plan is amended by the CTB.

However, the city recently agreed to transfer to VDOT control of a project to add additional lanes at the interchange of U.S. 29 and U.S. 250. Officials have said it is possible that money saved for that project could be transferred to the Belmont Bridge.

The council will receive another update on the bridge in a few months.

 

June 05, 2011

Albemarle Supervisors encouraged to consider increased funding for capital needs

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, June 5, 2011

Financial advisers told the Albemarle Board of Supervisors last week that some of their financial plans were actually working against their stated goals. They recommended strategies they said would make new revenues immediately available, including a future tax rate increase, to address some of the $125 million in unmet priority capital needs.

“I was very pleased that there are some small changes in the way we approach our funding that will allow us to make a small step toward the unfunded items in our capital improvement program,” said Ann H. Mallek, board chairwoman.

In recent budgets, Albemarle has gutted its capital budget and put a focus on maintenance projects as opposed to new construction. While Davenport & Co. recommended some new funding strategies, the board decided to take a wait-and-see approach and factor the firm’s recommendations into its regular capital budget process later this fall.

County Executive Tom Foley told the board at a meeting Thursday that Davenport’s assessment created an opportunity for them to move the capital budget in a new direction, particularly as they head into a strategic planning retreat on June 30.

“Our real purpose today is to talk about the long-term issues rather than to figure out what specific project we can get finished tomorrow,” Foley said. “It’s to see if you all want to take a different direction than we have taken over the last two to three years.”

Bill Letteri, Albemarle’s assistant county executive for finance and management, told the board that absent new direction, county staff would start the next capital plan assuming only maintenance items would be funded again.

“I think we’d probably all agree that a maintenance-only program really isn’t what we think a long-term capital program should look like,” Letteri said. “We do know eventually we are going to have to build schools, we are going to have to build fire stations, and we are going to have to build roads.”

David Rose, a senior vice president with Davenport & Co, said he had evaluated Albemarle’s $200 million in unmet capital needs and its investments in maintaining existing infrastructure.

“What has been somewhat sobering about that $200 million of needs is that about $75 million … is really going [toward] maintenance needs,” Rose said. “Those are really ‘have to’s’ if you are going to continue to keep this county at the pristine level that you expect of a AAA [credit rating] county — that’s a benchmark of places that people want to go and look to as doing things right.”

“We have a pretty good level of maintenance program right now we feel is sustainable,” Foley said. “But it’s not more than the industry standard.”

Rose said Davenport’s first recommendation was to refinance and restructure existing debt to take advantage of Albemarle’s AAA credit rating and a “currently favorable construction market.”

“We can responsibly, without raising the tax burden, we can add immediately $10 million to your capital program,” Rose said.

Supervisors were receptive to this recommendation and directed staff to factor this revenue into the next capital budget process, which will begin later this summer and lead to a joint meeting in December with the School Board to review the budget recommendations.

Second, Davenport recommended that Albemarle relax some of its debt policies, which it projected could make $111 million available in new debt capacity during 2017-2021.

“We are going to recommend … creation of a policy that talks about what is prudent in terms of how fast we pay down our debts,” Rose said. “You are almost working counter to what you are trying to do [by] deferring and pushing a lot of absolute critical needs … at a time when you could have done them cost effectively and not exacerbate the tax rate burden.”

Davenport’s third proposal received only mixed support from the supervisors. That was a recommendation to dedicate the equivalent of a 3-cent real estate property tax rate increase toward capital needs.

“That translates to about $60 million of additional capital projects,” Rose said. “That could occur immediately, or you could do that three years from now, or five years from now.”

Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker suggested the capital planning committee evaluate multiple scenarios to take into account Davenport’s recommendations.

“I think it would be fruitful for the [CIP committee to consider having] 2 cents of additional [revenue] available for capital — that could come just from growth in revenues, that could come from a tax increase if we voted to do it,” Rooker said. “What priority projects would emerge?”

“When we sit down to vote on the tax rate, I want to make sure we have the best information,” Rooker added.

The board directed Foley to develop two approaches in the next 10-year capital plan. One will feature a maintenance-only capital budget with an additional $10 million for priority projects, and a second will add a hypothetical 2-cent tax rate increase in future years.

May 26, 2011

MPO wants explanation for state funding disparity

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Charlottesville Tomorrow

The Metropolitan Planning Organization wants Virginia’s top transportation official to explain why Charlottesville and Albemarle County are slated to receive what they believe is a disproportionate amount of funding over the next six years.

20110525--MPO(group4)

According to a letter addressed to Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton, the Charlottesville-Albemarle metropolitan area makes up 1.8 percent of Virginia’s urban population but is only expected to receive about 0.14 percent of the amount the state will spend on transportation between now and 2017. 

“Overall, $3.34 billion is proposed to be invested in transportation improvements in the [state’s] 14 metro areas with only $4.5 million proposed to be invested in transportation improvements in Charlottesville-Albemarle,” reads the letter, which was written by MPO staff and signed by Albemarle Supervisor Rodney Thomas, the MPO chairman.

In June, the Commonwealth Transportation Board will take action on the Virginia Department of Transportation’s draft six-year improvement program for fiscal years 2012 through 2017. The MPO Policy Board voted Wednesday to submit the letter as part of the public input process.

“The six-year improvement program is the way the state decides how it’s going to spend money and where it’s going to spend money for transportation improvements,” said Stephen W. Williams, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District.

“If money doesn’t go into the [plan], the project is not going to get built,” Williams added.

One project not included in the draft plan is the widening of U.S. 29 to six lanes between the South Fork of the Rivanna River and the Hollymead Town Center. The project is a top priority in the county’s Places29 Master Plan.

“Any user of the transportation system in Central Virginia is aware that this segment of this primary roadway is currently highly-congested and also has safety issues related to grades and sight distances at intersections,” reads the letter.

The six-year plan also does not include several other priority projects identified by local officials. 

“Two projects which come to my mind, [replacing] Belmont Bridge and [extending] Hillsdale Drive, can be done right now if we had the money,” said City Councilor Satyendra Huja.

James Utterback, the administrator of VDOT’s Culpeper District, said one reason for the disparity is that the Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO often has a difficult time reaching consensus on transportation improvements.

“You know, as well as everyone else, how difficult it is to move a project [forward] in this area,” Utterback said. “The more the MPO focuses on regional issues, the more opportunities there are.”

However, Williams said he did not accept Utterback’s point of view.

20110525--MPO(williams2)
Stephen Williams

“Everybody else in the state got their projects in this six-year improvement program and we didn’t, and I want to know why we did not,” Williams said. “This statement that there isn’t a consensus is something that I’ve not noticed.”

Huja pointed out that the city and county have agreed on the extension of Hillsdale Drive. David Benish, the county’s chief of planning, said the county placed a top priority on that road in the Places29 Master Plan even though it is in city limits.

A design public hearing was held for the Hillsdale extension last year, a requirement before right of way can be obtained through purchase or donation.

It was also announced at Wednesday’s meeting that the cost estimate for the Belmont Bridge replacement had been raised from $9.2 million to over $14 million.

Utterback suggested the city continue to work on the design for the bridge replacement. A design public hearing for that project is scheduled for later in the year.

“Continue to push the design and get it ready to go to construction so there’s no doubt it’s ready to go,” Utterback said.

Secretary Connaughton was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

April 26, 2011

Third independent joins race for Charlottesville City Council

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A member of the Socialist Party of Central Virginia has announced he will run as an independent candidate for Charlottesville City Council.

“I’m in this to win, and it’s a long shot, but I think I can do it,” said Brandon Collins in an interview Monday. “We live in a really messed up world and we’ve got to start changing things now or we’re pretty much doomed.”

Brandon-collins
Image courtesy of Brandon Collins

Collins, 37, is a lifelong resident of Charlottesville and a graduate of Charlottesville High School. He is a board member of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice and a co-founder of the Cville Workers Action Network.

Collins is a musician who works at the Blue Moon Diner and as a caretaker of a person with cerebral palsy.

In recent weeks, Collins has appeared before the council to oppose the Meadow Creek Parkway, to call for dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and to ask that the city distance itself from the emerging presence of the defense sector in the region.

“You can resist the war here in local government by taking a look at the massive amount of contractors we have here in Charlottesville, seeing what role the city plays with those folks, and eliminating that role altogether,” Collins said at the council’s April 18 meeting.  

One way to do that, Collins said, would be to prevent defense contractors and the military from participating in city-sponsored job fairs.

Collins’ platform would double the amount of funding for affordable housing programs and expand full public transit service to Sundays and to add late night service.

But Collins said he was still considering how the city could raise more revenue to pay for his suggested programs.

“Raising taxes might harm the working class and poor folks,” Collins said.  However, he said increasing tax rates for businesses would be an option.

Collins said he would like to pass a law requiring both public and private employers to pay a “living wage,” but acknowledged the General Assembly would need to give the city authority to do so.

“We can say we want a living wage for everyone in Charlottesville, but we can’t legally do that,” Collins said. He added that one possible suggestion would be to deny certain permits to companies that don’t offer a living wage.

Collins said he thinks Charlottesville is ready to elect a Socialist to its City Council, and that his party can’t grow until its ideas are on the table.

“There are plenty of progressives who support some of the things we talk about, and they may not be Socialists, but they’re willing to listen,” Collins said. “The Democratic Party might be scared of being labeled [Socialist], but for the most part progressive people and working-class voters are supportive.”

He said he is still collecting signatures and hopes to file his first paperwork with Charlottesville Registrar Sheri Iachetta by the end of the week.

Collins is the third independent to announce his candidacy, joining Scott Bandy and Bob Fenwick.

Three seats on the council are up for grabs this November, including those of councilors David Brown and Holly Edwards, who have announced they will not seek re-election.

Two Democrats, incumbent Satyendra Huja and challenger James Halfaday, have announced their intention to seek their party’s nomination at an August 20 unassembled caucus. Councilors Dave Norris and Kristin Szakos aren’t up for re-election until 2013.

 

April 19, 2011

County switching from phone to paper surveys

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Albemarle County has changed the process by which it surveys its citizens on the quality of local government services.

In previous years, the county has hired the University of Virginia’s Center for Research to conduct phone surveys with residents to ask questions specifically tailored to Albemarle. In 2008, the center conducted phone interviews with 767 residents at a cost of $43,000.

“The UVa surveys have been very useful and accurate over the past 10 or so years, but we needed to revisit our approach given budgetary constraints,” said Lee Catlin, county spokeswoman.

This year, Albemarle will instead spend $15,000 to participate in the National Citizen Survey, a paper questionnaire developed by the International City/County Management Association. The survey is used by more than 250 localities across the country, including Blacksburg and Lynchburg.

This week, the county will mail 1,200 of the forms to residents chosen at random.

“The survey is an important tool for gauging public priorities and issues of concern, and the results are very helpful as we make critical policy and resource decisions,” said County Executive Tom Foley in a news release. “We hope that those citizens who receive surveys in the mail will take the time to share their candid feedback with us.”

Catlin said the results will be different from previous years, but will still be useful in helping to guide county leadership.

“Because of the standard template used in this new survey instrument, we have not been able to edit questions to reflect specific Albemarle County issues, so the results will be less deep and specialized,” Catlin said.

However, Catlin said there were benefits to participating in the same survey used by other communities.

“The standardization of questions will allow us to benchmark very precisely with other communities in Virginia and across the country,” she said.

The results will be compiled and made available to county staff in the weeks leading up to the Board of Supervisors’ strategic retreat in June.

April 11, 2011

Council hears report on cooperative work with Albemarle

DailyProgressOne year after Del. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, encouraged elected officials from the city and Albemarle County to improve relations, at least one is lamenting that not enough progress has been made.

“I think we had an opportunity to do something big here and I don’t think we took advantage of it,” City Councilor David Brown said at a recent council meeting.

Toscano convened a joint meeting last April for the City Council, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and both school boards after the two localities clashed over a request by the county School Board to recalculate a formula that determines state funding for education. The local composite index does not take into account the annual revenue sharing payment that the county makes to the city.

If the effort had been successful, the county would have received an additional $2.6 million in state funding for education, but the money would have come from Charlottesville’s allocation. The idea prompted outrage from city officials.

“Periodically this threat gets raised about coming after funding that is currently being directed for city schools and appropriating it for county schools,” Mayor Dave Norris said. “And then we have to go and scramble and hire lobbyists to go down to Richmond [to fight] Albemarle County because of this proposal.”

One outcome of the meeting was the formation of a subcommittee tasked to find areas where some funding could be allocated to joint projects. The group met behind closed doors last August.

“The school departments of the city and county were to identify a mutually beneficial program which could be created or increased to use the contested $2.6 million,” Albemarle Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said. One idea was to create a “virtual high school” to offer remote classes, but Mallek said the idea was too expensive.

“We need to start with a smaller effort,” Mallek said.

Another outcome of last April’s joint meeting was the formation of subcommittees to explore whether the two jurisdictions’ fire-rescue or social services departments could be merged.

The groups were directed to “examine delivery of services and implement measures which increase the level of services at the same cost or provide the same level of services at lower cost to taxpayers of both jurisdictions.”

However, both reports issued by the committees listed several reasons why merging would end up costing taxpayers more money.

Download Download Fire-Rescue Consolidation report

Download Download Social Services Consolidation report

“Through their discussions and their research, staff and elected members of those groups came to conclusions that, at this point, consolidating services may not be the best route to take,” City Manager Maurice Jones said. “But we have been collaborating on a lot of different issues for many years and both groups identified [new] areas that we can collaborate on in the future.”

Councilor Kristin Szakos said she would welcome further discussions about becoming one community rather than two, but understood some of the obstacles.

“One thing I was struck by with social services … is that if you combine them, you’d have to build a new building because you’d suddenly have a bigger staff and so you’d eat up the savings with construction [costs].”

Despite the recommendation, Councilor Satyendra Huja said he still sought further exploration of consolidating the city and county social services departments.

“Even if you did nothing else, you would have one less director and one less assistant [to pay],” Huja said.

Brown said he has received advice from former councilors that consolidation will only happen if it is the will of the council and the Board of Supervisors.

“Staff on the city side and staff on the county side have too much invested in the status quo to really want to push for change,” Brown said. “That’s what I’ve found to be true.”

Councilor Holly Edwards said the consolidation talk should have provided an opportunity to combat what she sees as one of the region’s biggest issues.

“Poverty knows no boundaries between the city and the county and neither does grief or loss or pain,” Edwards said. “This may conclude the story for now, but I think there might be opportunities in the future.”

The fire-rescue report outlined several areas where the two communities are already working together, including joint work on training, investigations and educational outreach. Mallek said the county already pays the city to provide additional coverage in the Pantops area.

“The development of a true mutual aid agreement is [expected],” Mallek said.
 

March 17, 2011

Tea Party hosting forum to review local sustainability initiatives

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, March 17, 2011

When it comes to energy efficiency, “green” buildings and climate change, the Jefferson Area Tea Party wants area residents to think carefully about decisions being made by local government.

At a community forum being held today, the party has invited two speakers to share information about an international “sustainability agenda” they say Albemarle County, the city of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia are all pursuing.

“We want people to learn, then go off and study this on their own,” said Carole Thorpe, chairwoman of the Jefferson Area Tea Party. “We want to bring to the community’s attention what might be influencing local government.”


Listen using player above or download the podcast:
Download 20110317-TeaParty

The speakers include local Tea Party member Charles Battig and Tom DeWeese, founder and president of the American Policy Center, a conservative think tank located in Northern Virginia that promotes free enterprise and limited government regulations.

Both speakers have written that they are concerned that a 1992 action plan backed by the United Nations — one that promotes sustainable development — is being embraced by local governments.

Battig, a Free Union resident and retired anesthesiologist, has lobbied the Albemarle Board of Supervisors to withdraw its $1,200 annual membership in the organization known as ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability.

“ICLEI participated in forming Agenda 21, the United Nations agenda for the 21st century, and basically it elevates sustainability, as they define it, as the new governing criteria for all actions, of all governments, all over,” Battig said in an interview. “ICLEI is within our local government and it brings their baggage and their dogma with it.”

The governments of both Charlottesville and Albemarle joined ICLEI and made public commitments when they signed on to national climate change declarations. Charlottesville signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in July 2006 and Albemarle signed the U.S. Cool Counties Stabilization Declaration in December 2007.

As a “Cool County,” Albemarle has set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, an average annual reduction of 2 percent. At a budget work session last week, Albemarle staff said they use ICLEI to network with other member communities, obtain software and receive technical support on the maintenance of an inventory of local greenhouse gas emissions.

At the work session, Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd called for a withdrawal from ICLEI, citing potential directives Albemarle might have to take from an international organization.

“I see ICLEI as being … a way to get local governments to start forcing people into making energy decisions, and I don’t think that’s something we should be doing,” Boyd said. “Our literature … incorporates some things [from ICLEI] that says what we’ve got to do is force our public to be efficient.”

Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said that by focusing on an energy efficiency agenda in government buildings, the county had already recognized savings of about $600,000 in reduced utilities.

“Whether you believe in global warming or not, energy efficiency is smart from a dollar and cents standpoint; reducing pollution is smart from the standpoint of protecting the health of our citizens … to me those things are pretty wise to focus on,” Rooker said.

Boyd said he supports energy savings, but that he doesn’t accept the rest of the ICLEI agenda and that he regretted voting in favor of the initiative in 2007.

“I misunderstood what the Cool Counties resolution was. … I thought we were only talking about our own internal government uses and reductions of greenhouse gases,” Boyd said. “[Had I realized] we were talking about the community as a whole, I wouldn’t have voted for it.”

Boyd was the only supervisor to express strong opposition to ICLEI and the $1,200 membership remains in the county’s proposed budget for next fiscal year.

Battig says he is disappointed Boyd didn’t have more support, but he said that the ICLEI dues are more of a symbolic issue and an educational lesson about local government and good intentions gone awry.

“ICLEI is really not the issue at this point … it’s what has been set in motion,” Battig said. “We are heading down this road, do we want to fall off the cliff?”

Battig says a bigger concern is a three-year $999,000 federal grant received by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and the Metropolitan Planning Organization to develop a regional sustainability implementation plan for the city, county and the University of Virginia.

“It’s going to happen because they’ve got the money, but the Board of Supervisors needs to be under pressure from the general public,” Battig said. “We’ll go along with saving money where we can, but we’re not ready to have an unelected group tell us how much food we can eat, how many miles we can drive and what the thermostat setting should be in my house.”

Stephen Williams, the TJPDC’s executive director, said the term “sustainability” has a lot of different meanings to people, “most of which are not favorable.” He said the grant will not bring to the community a United Nations agenda.

“We are trying to accomplish some goals I think the Tea Party would want to line up behind,” Williams said. “We are trying to … look at and agree upon a specific set of strategies to improve the region and then try and coordinate the activities and policies so we can accomplish things to benefit the people in the region.”

“We have no intention to dictate to people what they can do with their land, or to place any new requirements on them,” he added. “We are not in the business of telling people what to do. We are asking what can be done on a voluntary basis to increase sustainability in the region. We are looking for ways to educate people and incentivize them to make changes.”

The Tea Party’s Thorpe says she wants to “be a good steward and take care of the things that we have.”

“We want to keep nature in balance with the construction we do. The question is, is there something more involved? That is what we will be exploring at the forum,” Thorpe said.

The event is open to the public and is being held in Lane Auditorium at the Albemarle County Office Building on McIntire Road at 7 tonight.

 

March 16, 2011

Albemarle to advertise current real estate tax rate for FY2012


By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, March  16, 2011

Three members of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors said Monday they would support a one cent increase in the real estate property tax to pay for new infrastructure.   However, a motion to advertise the higher rate failed on a 3-3 vote.

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Supervisor Duane Snow

“It’s important that we maintain our roads, it’s important that we keep working on our infrastructure,” Supervisor Duane Snow said.

Snow was joined in supporting the increased rate by Supervisors Dennis Rooker and Ann Mallek.  In the face of a deadlock, a second motion to advertise the rate at 74.2 cents per $100 of assessed property value was approved unanimously.

The votes came during a work session to discuss the county’s proposed $18.2 million capital improvement program budget for the next fiscal year. The CIP totals $75.4 million over the next five years, with the majority of funding going to maintenance.

“We do think this proposed program does adequately address our existing infrastructure in terms of maintenance and it includes two critical projects,” said assistant county executive Bill Letteri, referring to a new fire station on Ivy Road and renovations at Greer Elementary School.

In FY2012, no funding is allocated towards community development projects, such as sidewalks or new roads. There is also no funding for the county to participate in VDOT’s “revenue-sharing” program where county dollars are matched one-to-one with state money.

Part of Governor Bob McDonnell’s transportation package in the recent session of the General Assembly included an increase of funding for the program .

“Not being able to take advantage of the revenue-sharing program is I think extremely imprudent,” Rooker said.

Halfway through the work session, Rooker suggested a one-cent tax increase to raise $1.5 million for capital projects, including participation in VDOT revenue sharing and the construction of a new library in Crozet.

“My expectation is that the making of this public investment will help the entirety of downtown Crozet which will then ultimately provide additional tax revenues,” Rooker said.

However, Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said it was not the time to raise taxes, and predicted that the county would get additional revenue from retail developments such as the former Albemarle Place, now known as Stonefield.

“[There are] still a lot of people out of work, and I’m not at a place where I want to increase taxes to pay for a Crozet library,” Boyd said.

Rooker argued that by raising additional revenues to pay for the project now, the county would save money by taking advantage of lower interest rates and lower construction costs. But Boyd, who has made the same argument in advocating for speedy construction of a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, was not persuaded.

“In businesses and our personal lives, we all have lost opportunity costs,” Boyd said. “I agree it’s unfortunate but we don’t have the money right now. I don’t want to put that burden on taxpayers… I think we can weather through it and still move forward as this economy turns around.”

Supervisor Rodney Thomas said he agreed with Boyd.
 
“I think it’s time to tighten our belts maybe a bit more, and hold it tight for a while longer,” Thomas said.

Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier said he could not support the increase because too many people are on fixed incomes and can’t absorb the additional tax.

“The public seems to support [staying at 74.2 cents] because they certainly didn’t come out at the public hearing,” Dorrier said.

But Snow said he could support the increase. 

“For that one cent we can add jobs back into the community to help some of these people that are out of work,” Snow said.

With a 3-3 stalemate, Mallek asked Boyd, Thomas and Dorrier if any of them would support an equalized rate of 75 cents, which would bring in the same amount of revenue as the current fiscal year.

 A 74.2 cent tax actually results in a tax decrease for most property owners because of declining property values. Once the board votes to advertise a tax rate, it can only be decreased, not increased before the adoption of the budget.

Thomas said he wanted to keep the rate as is, and Boyd and Dorrier agreed. A motion by Rooker to adopt an equalized tax rate also failed.

However, that does not necessarily mean the county will not participate in VDOT’s revenue sharing program.

Staff had presented the board with the option of setting aside $448,000 in FY12 to pay for operating costs at the new Ivy fire station when it opens in FY13.

Rooker suggested, however, that the money should be used to ensure the county could participate in VDOT revenue sharing.

Also at the work session, the Board agreed to make a one-time payment of $5,000 to the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society to support the Hatton Ferry. They also agreed to authorize a half-time employee at the Crozet Library. The library had asked for a full-time employee at a cost of nearly $31,000.

Many other capital projects loom on the horizon, such as the potential need for a new complex to house the county’s court system. In May, the board will hold a work session on long-term funding strategies for that and other capital projects.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST #1:

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110314-BOS-Budget3-part1

  • 01:00 - Introduction from County Executive Tom Foley recapping work session with school board
  • 06:00 - Motion to approve school budget communications strategy
  • 06:30 - Foley introduces the agenda for the CIP work session
  • 07:00 - Assistant County Executive Bill Letteri begins review of the capital improvement program budget
  • 10:35 - Letteri explains how CIP budget is based on a 74.2 cent increase
  • 13:00 - Supervisor Ken Boyd asks what happens with surpluses that result from projects that come in under budget
  • 13:40 - Letteri relates recent trends in CIP funding
  • 17:00 - Discussion of the Ivy fire station which is in the CIP
  • 18:30 - Letteri describes how funds are transferred into the CIP
  • 23:30 - Boyd asks if the CIP anticipates replacement of county court buildings
  • 24:45 - Letteri describes recommendations from CIP oversight committee, including discussion of extending life  of fire equipment
  • 28:30 - Boyd questions whether some maintenance projects are simply improvements that could be deferred
  • 29:50 - Letteri describes projects in the capital budget, with discussion about planned Ivy fire station
  • 38:30 - Rooker asks question about appraisal software that is listed in the CIP
  • 54:30 - Rooker asks what could be built with another $1 million in the CIP and points out 1 cent rise equals $1.5 million
  • 01:03:30 - Boyd responds to Rooker
  • 01:07:00 - Rooker laments county's inability to pursue VDOT revenue sharing money
  • 01:09:30 - Supervisor Duane Snow asks how much the surplus was for the previous fiscal year
  • 01:14:45 - Boyd claims Barnes' lumber project is being held up by county bureaucracy, citing rumors
  • 01:17:00 - Rooker and Supervisor Ann Mallek suggest using VDOT revenue sharing money to fix Broomley Bridge
  • 01:21:30 - Rooker asks supervisors if they would support a one-cent increase in sales tax to to capital
  • 01:23:00 - Dorrier asks about the "rainy day fund"
  • 01:25:00 - Boyd explains his opposition to any tax increase 01:31:00 - Snow explains his support for a one-cent increase
  • 01:37:00 - Mallek asks Boyd, Thomas and Dorrier if they will support an equalized tax rate


TIMELINE FOR PODCAST #2:

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110314-BOS-Budget3-part2

 

  • 01:00 - Discussion of compensation and benefits led by Lorna Gerome,  Acting Director of Human Resources.
  • 19:00 - Lori Allshouse answers remaining questions about the budget brought up at previous work session
  • 21:30 - Conversation about reserving money in FY2012 budget for Ivy fire station operating funds in FY2013
  • 22:30 - Rooker suggests using Ivy fire station operating costs set-aside for VDOT revenue sharing match instead
  • 28:00 - Discussion of Hatton Ferry
  • 30:00 - Dorrier explains why he wants the $5,000 for the Hatton Ferry
  • 33:45 - Snow explains why he would support the $5,000 for the Hatton Ferry
  • 40:15 - Snow asks for more information on the county self-insuring vehicles
  • 43:00 - Discussion of new employee at Crozet Library
  • 53:45 - Discussion of restoring funding for ACE program
  • 01:05:00 - Rooker makes a motion to advertise 75 cent tax rate 
  • 01:08:00 - Boyd makes a motion to advertise tax rate

 

March 11, 2011

Council briefed on details of $140 million budget

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, March 11, 2011

 

The Charlottesville City Council has held the first of several work sessions to review the proposed $140 million budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2011.

“I don’t want to say this budget is boring, but it’s not exactly the most exciting budget,” said Budget Director Leslie Beauregard. “It’s obviously not growing as much as past ones have, but I think we’ve managed to get a few new things in here.”

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110311-CC-BudgetWorkSession

Beauregard projects 1.16% increase in revenue from real property taxes, a 1.36% increase from sales taxes, a 3.44% rise from the meals tax and a 7.47% increase from the transient room tax.

“All of these are good indicators that maybe the economy is starting to pick up again,” Beauregard said. “I don’t think we’re being overly optimistic. I think we’re being a bit cautious in how we project our revenues.”

However, Beauregard projects a decrease in revenue from the cigarette tax due to changing habits.

“In a sense you can look at this as a blessing in disguise because people are smoking less, or they’re going to the county because they don’t have a cigarette tax,” Beauregard said.

One uncertainty is how much money funding will come from the state. Beauregard
pointed out that since FY08, state-aid had dropped by 16%.

Of the county’s $18 million revenue-sharing payment, the city will use $12.663 million to fund the operating budget. $4.359 million goes to the capital improvement program budget and the rest will go towards replacement and repair funds. Last year the city only used half of the revenue-sharing payment for operating funds.

It has become common practice for a pool of money to be set aside for Council to use throughout the year for new initiatives. The current year’s budget set aside $265,000 for such ventures. Beauregard said council has about $50,000 remaining in the current year’s pool.

Mayor Dave Norris wanted to know what happened to the $100,000 set aside to study new recycling options, and the $110,000 set aside to implement changes to the transit system. Beauregard said she would have an answer on the recycling funding at a future work session.

City Manager Maurice Jones said the transit money was still in reserve pending the results of the transit development plan being put together with help from the Connetics Transportation Group.
Councilor Holly Edwards said she wanted to see if the $100,000 could be spent to hire an outside consultant to “look at how things could be changed differently.”

20110310-Szakos
City Councilor Kristin Szakos

Both she and Councilor Kristin Szakos expressed dissatisfaction with the work produced by Connetics, which was unveiled to them at a work session earlier this month.

“We didn’t get everything out of that that we thought we were going to get,” Edwards said.

“We got some good ideas and I think what it did mostly was affirm for us that our transit system is a good one,” Edwards said, “But what is it that we can do to bring things to the next level?”

City Councilor David Brown said he was uncomfortable with how the council’s initiative pool has grown.

“When I got on Council, there was a little bit of money so we could tinker around the edges with what had come through the process,” Brown said. “And now it’s grown to be a quarter of a million dollars. I worry that implies that we have a fair amount of money to initiate new programs.”

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - City Manager Maurice Jones introduces discussion
  • 02:00 - Budget director Leslie Beauregard begins going through the budget
  • 07:00 - Question about short-term rentals
  • 09:00 - Beauregard describes trends for intergovernmental revenue
  • 12:00 - Beauregard explains shift in funding for First Tee program
  • 17:00 - Parks director Brian Daly outlines how new Smith facility is bringing in additional revenue for city parks
  • 18:00 - Beauregard continues explaining intergovernmental revenue
  • 20:00 - Discussion of revenue-sharing
  • 25:30 - Discussion of council initiatives
  • 26:00 - Discussion of expansion of city's internship program
  • 29:30 - Discussion of extension of community dialogue on race
  • 30:40 - Discussion of council's $250,000 pool of funding for new initiatives
  • 32:45 - Discussion of CSA administration being moved to Department of Social Services
  • 37:45 - Discussion of additional money ($670,000) back from the state which will be banked for future capital programs
  • 39:00 - Mayor Dave Norris asks whether that is the right approach
  • 45:00 - Councilor David Brown indicates uneasiness with council's pool of funding for new initiatives
  • 52:00 - Brown asks to talk about some of the internal costs in the budget, such as the city's contribution to employment retirement
  • 54:00 - Beauregard explains how employee salaries are going up, and that employees will pay more for health insurance
  • 56:30 - Beauregard explains that the switch to hybrid vehicles has led to $100,000 savings in fuel
  • 58:15 - Brown asks about decrease in state funding for regional jail s
  • 01:00:00 - Councilor Holly Edwards asks for a copy of the efficiency study
  • 01:00:30 - Edwards asks if money can be set aside for new study of bus system
  • 01:04:15 - Beauregard explains $45,000 set aside for cutbacks in state funding for registrar's office
  • 01:07:00 - City Councilor Kristin Szakos asks for information on city spending for Chesapeake Bay TMDL
  • 01:11:00 - Public comment from Jeanne Chase in support of the Old Lynchburg Road project

 

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