Apr 13 • 13M

April 13, 2022: Council increases real estate tax rate for first time since 1981

Plus: Governor Youngkin wields veto pen on over two dozen bills, amends over a hundred

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Regular updates of what's happening in local and regional government in and around Charlottesville, Virginia from an award-winning journalist with nearly thirty years of experience.
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Is there anything terrifying about Wednesday the 13th, or is this a day reserved to be wacky? Either way we are now 103 days into the year, which may be startling for some. Some might be surprised to learn this is the 363rd installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement. No one should be shocked that I am the host, Sean Tubbs. 

On today’s show:

  • Charlottesville City Council adopts a budget for FY23 including a the first increase in the real estate tax in in 41 years

  • The Charlottesville Dogwood Festival returns this week in a new location

  • An update on the city’s zoning rewrite

  • Governor Youngkin vetoes two dozen General Assembly bills and recommends changes to dozens more 

Today’s first shout-out goes to WTJU

Algorithms know how to put songs and artists together based on genre or beats per minute. But only people can make connections that engage your mind and warm your heart. The music on WTJU 91.1 FM is chosen by dozens and dozens of volunteer hosts -- music lovers like you who live right here in the Charlottesville area. Listener donations keep WTJU alive and thriving. In this era of algorithm-driven everything, go against the grain. Support freeform community radio on WTJU and get read for the Rock Marathon beginning next Monday! Consider a donation at wtju.net/donate.

City Council adopts FY23 budget, raises real estate tax rate by a penny

In a brief meeting last night, Charlottesville City Council adopted a nearly $212.9 million budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. However, a penny increase in the real estate tax rate goes into effect for the calendar year, which will be included in the tax bills that will soon be sent to property owners. That’s the first increase in the tax rate several decades.

“It’s been a long budget season,” said interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. “We’ve listened as staff to your various proposals and desires to address issues in our community.” 

The final shape of the budget was formed at a work session on April 7 at which Councilors agreed to the real estate tax increase and to keep the personal property tax to $4.20 per $100 of assessed value. Second reading of a vote to increase the meals tax to 6.5 percent will be held on April 18.  (read the staff report)

Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook is the only opponent of the increase to $0.96 cents per $100 of assessed value, but he did vote in the affirmative.

“I will note that I disagree with the levy and raising of the real estate tax by one cents but given the fact that we just passed a budget that has to be funded, I will be voting yes,” Snook said. 

That additional penny will raise $925,000, all of which will go to pay for future debt service related to the renovation of Buford Middle School as well as school reconfiguration. The group Charlottesville United for Public Education released a statement thanking the Council, but signaled they will continue to push for more. 

“While we thank City Council for making a strong commitment to our schools in their budget vote last night, we also call on them to continue to make investments in public education a top priority going forward,” reads a statement. 

The first half of the tax bills are due on June 5. 

The last time City Council increased the tax rate was in 1981 when Council voted to increase the rate from $1.10 to $1.13 per $100 of assessed value. 

City Council to return to in-person meetings next Monday

Charlottesville City Council will follow the lead of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and return to in-person meetings beginning this upcoming Monday. While there will be opportunities for the public to attend the 6:30 p.m. regular session, only Councilors will attend the 4 p.m. work session. Both sessions will be live-streamed. 

At the regular session, 23 members of the public and two members of the media will be able to attend in City Council Chambers. All formal presentations will be delivered remotely. 

Charlottesville is still under an emergency ordinance and today’s news release states that this system will remain in place for the duration. 

“At this time, this is the only meeting permitted to resume in-person, but discussions are underway regarding other meetings resuming in CitySpace,” reads the release.

Today the Virginia Department of Health reports another 1,115 cases and the percent positivity is at 6.9 percent. 

Planning Commission updated on zoning code rewrite

Charlottesville planning staff and consultants hired to run the Cville Plans Together initiative are slightly behind in their work to create a diagnostic and approach report for the rewriting of the city zoning code. That’s what Neighborhood Development Services Director James Freas told the Planning Commission last night. 

“By the next meeting, we’ll probably have released this next report,” Freas said. “In fact, we definitely will have. But before then we’ll have shared with you guys what we anticipate the schedule looking like going forward.” 

City Council adopted an Affordable Housing Plan last March and a new Comprehensive Plan in mid-November. Freas said the goal is to have the new zoning code adopted around this time next year. 

“Hopefully by March of next year we’ll have fully adopted it,” Freas said. “That’s what we’ve been aiming for and I don’t see any reason to push that back.” 

For more on the zoning process, visit cvilleplanstogether.com

Dogwood Festival returns with new location of carnival

After a two year break due to the pandemic, a major highlight of the annual Dogwood Festival returns tomorrow. However, the carnival will be held in a different location this year. Charlottesville Planning Commissioner Hosea Mitchell informed his colleagues on Tuesday night.

“It used to be at McIntire Park and now it’s going to be in the K-Mart parking lot,” Mitchell said. 

The Dogwood Festival began in 1950 as the Apple Harvest Festival before getting its longterm name in 1958. As part of the festivities, there will be a rededication ceremony for the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial beginning on April 22. The 73rd Dogwood Grand Parade will be held on April 23 in downtown Charlottesville. For more information, visit cvilledogwood.com

WTJU’s Rum Cove at the 2016 Dogwood Parade (Credit: Sean Tubbs)

Today’s second shout-out goes to LEAP

We’re now well into spring, and soon many of us will turn our air conditioning units for the first i months. To see what you can do to get the most out of your home, contact LEAP, your local energy nonprofit, to schedule a home energy assessment this month - just $45 for City and County residents. LEAP also offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents. If someone in your household is age 60 or older, or you have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!

Governor Youngkin takes action on legislation, vetoes over two dozen bills

The Virginia General Assembly is next scheduled to meet on April 27 to respond to actions taken by Governor Glenn Youngkin this week on bills that passed both the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and the Democratic-controlled Senate earlier this year.  

On Monday, Youngkin took action on several bills that passed this past winter. Youngkin signed over 700 bills, made recommendations on over 100, and vetoed two dozen that had passed both the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House of Delegates. The General Assembly can override the vetoes with a two-thirds majority and will consider whether to accept the amendments. (check out the Virginia Constitution for the details)

Vetoed bills include: (full list)

  • SB347 would have required the State Corporation Commission to establish annual energy efficiency savings targets for low-income, elderly, disabled, or veterans of military service.  Youngkin said the SCC’s definition of “public interest” should not be expanded by the legislature and could lead to higher energy costs. 

  • HB802 would have expanded the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act to give localities the power to take action against landlords who allow their units to become fire and safety hazards. In his explanation, Youngkin claimed this would duplicate existing provisions available under the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code. 

  • HB675 would have eliminated the ability of health insurance carriers to levy a surcharge to tobacco users.

  • HB1298 would have prohibited high school student-athletes from being compensated for their likeness, name, or image. Youngkin said “the bill is a premature prohibition that fails to recognize the continually evolving marketplace for content creation and monetization and could have the unintended consequence of limiting young people from engaging in economic activity via social media unrelated to their athletic performance.” 

  • SB250 would have increased annual fees for nonhazardous solid waste management facilities. Youngkin said this would “[increase] the cost of doing business in Virginia with pass-through costs to consumers.”

  • SB297 would have made it a violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act for a health care provider to seek debt collection prematurely. Youngkin said this would create “unintended consequences that could harm small healthcare providers by "creating additional legal liability.”

  • SB706 would have prohibited operators of heavy trucks from using cruise control and certain types of breaks during winter storms. Youngkin said “this bill would impose burdens on Virginia’s trucking industry, as well as interstate transportation, without any demonstrable public safety or transportation benefit.” 

Current statistics for the 2022 General Assembly after the Governor’s actions this week

Asd for the amendments, there are several worth noting.

  • Youngkin put a sunset clause of July 1, 2024 on a provision of the Transit Ridership Incentive Program that would have required a quarter of the program’s  funds be spent on programs to reduce fares. (HB142)

  • Youngkin wants to extend the date by which hotels must ensure their employees are trained to report human trafficking from July 1 of this year to January 1, 2023. (HB258)

  • HB891 would have removed the word “alien” from Virginia code as it refers to non-citizens. Youngkin amended the bill to require a work group be set up to study the issue. 

  • SB24 would have extended the sunset date of Virginia’s Eviction Diversion Pilot Program, but Youngkin’s amendment would require the General Assembly to vote on this again in 2023. 

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