Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
December 12, 2022: Callsen files paperwork to run in House District 54; Albemarle elected officials continue discussion on school capital funding

December 12, 2022: Callsen files paperwork to run in House District 54; Albemarle elected officials continue discussion on school capital funding

Plus: Charlottesville wants residents to fill out National Community Survey

There’s something satisfying about saying the words “Twelve Twelve” to describe a date. The days are running out when saying “Twenty-Two” immediately afterward will describe the present or the future, rather than the past. How many more installments of Charlottesville Community Engagement will there be between the arrival of baby Twenty-Three? Follow along for the answer to that specific question. I’m Sean Tubbs. 

On today’s program:

  • The first candidate has filed for the vacant House District 54 seat for Charlottesville and urban Albemarle

  • Governor Youngkin sets the date for a special election for Virginia’s vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives

  • Charlottesville wants input from residents on a series of questions

  • There’s grant funding for anyone who wants to do a cultural project for Sister Cities 

  • Albemarle Supervisors and the School Board continue to discuss ways to pay for capital costs for education infrastructure 

First shout-out: Magic on the Mall 

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out, the Friends of Charlottesville Downtown and the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau want you to visit the Central Place on the Downtown Mall Saturdays and Sundays in December for Magic on the Mall from noon to 4 p.m.  

Festive family activities include Selfies with Santa on Saturdays. Music on the Mall at 2 p.m. on Sundays, and the Peppermint Trail where you can find all sorts of treats. Ride the Holly Trolley or go on a magical scavenger hunt to find the Elves in Cville by starting at Charlottesville Insider or downloading it online! For a full list of participating businesses and locations, visit

Callsen seeks open House District 54

Albemarle County School Board member Katrina Callsen has filed with the Virginia Department of Elections to be a candidate to run in the House of Delegates district being vacated by Delegate Sally Hudson. Callsen is seeking the Democratic nomination for the open seat in District 54.

Callsen was elected to represent the Rio District on the School Board in 2017 in a competitive race in which she secured about two-thirds of the vote. She ran unopposed in the 2021 election. She works for the city of Charlottesville as a deputy city attorney and is the School Board’s current vice chair.

Hudson is challenging Senator Creigh Deeds in the Democratic primary for Senate District 11. Two Democrats are seeking the nomination for House District 55 where the incumbent is Republican Rob Bell. They are emergency room nurse Kellen Squire and former Charlottesville School Board member Amy Laufer.

Albemarle School Board video:

Youngkin sets date for 4th District special election

There will be a special election on February 21, 2023 in the localities within Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District to choose a successor to the late Donald McEachin. McEachin died on November 28. 

McEachin had just won releection to another term by defeating Republican Leon Benjamin with nearly two-thirds of the vote. The late Congressman was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2016 after serving for many years in both Houses of the Virginia General Assembly. 

People who want to be candidates in the special election have until December 23 to file. 


The chair of the Fourth Congressional District sent out a press release shortly after the announcement.

“The Democrats of the Fourth Congressional District are committed to running a fair and open nomination process following Governor Youngkin’s issuance of the writ of election,” said Alexsis Rodgers, Chairwoman of the Fourth Congressional District Democratic Committee.

“We are still grieving from the loss of Congressman McEachin, and we want voters to be able to participate in a democratic process to select his successor,” Rodgers continued. “The Fourth District Democratic Committee is meeting expediently to officially determine the method of nomination. We will make information regarding candidate filing and our nomination process available as soon as possible.”

The writ of election for the February 21, 2023 special election. 

Charlottesville launches satisfaction survey

Are you a Charlottesville resident and do you have between 17 and 18 minutes? That’s the amount of time suggested you’ll need to fill out a community survey between now and December 22. (fill out the survey)

“We really do look forward to hearing from the community,” said Deputy City Manager Ashley Marshall at the December 5 City Council meeting. 

The survey’s website is run by a firm called Polco and respondents will be asked to provide an email and a zip code. 

“The city will not have access to any of that data but it is asked to make sure that individuals from the community are who is answering the survey so we can make sure that we are getting our community members’ responses and not someone in California, for example,” Marshall said. 

Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers said the results will influence policy in the near-term.

“This information will be another layer that will go into our strategic plan,”Rogers said.

Households at random have been selected to fill out a paper survey. 

The survey is open until Twelve Twenty-Two, Twenty-Two (Credit: Polco)

Grants available for Charlottesville Sister City projects

Charlottesville has either four or five Sister Cities depending on whether you include Pleven, which is now considered to have ‘emeritus’ status. But the Bulgarian city is definitely not one of the four places eligible for a grant from the Sister Cities Commission for projects to make cultural connections. 

“Past grants have supported initiatives in the visual arts, music, municipal services, digital communications and connectivity, education, literary fields, sports, photography, and more,” reads the press release

Organizations and individuals can apply up to $4,000 and there is a total of $24,000 available. The deadline to apply is January 13, 2023 and if you’re selected, you’ll have to give a full report. 

The three official Sister Cities are Poggio a Caiano in the Tuscan region of Italy; Winneba on the coast of Ghana; and Besançon, France. Huehuetenango in Guatemala is considered a Friendship City at the moment and Sister City status is pending. 

To apply and learn more, visit the Sister Cities Commission’s website.

Learn more about previous grant-funded projects on the Sister Cities Commission’s website (Credit: Sister Cities Commission)

Second shout-out goes to Camp Albemarle

Today’s second subscriber-supported public service announcement goes out to Camp Albemarle, which has for sixty years been a “wholesome rural, rustic and restful site for youth activities, church groups, civic events and occasional private programs.”

Located on 14 acres on the banks of the Moorman’s River near Free Union, Camp Albemarle continues as a legacy of being a Civilian Conservation Corps project that sought to promote the importance of rural activities. Camp Albemarle seeks support for a plan to winterize the Hamner Lodge, a structure built in 1941 by the CCC and used by every 4th and 5th grade student in Charlottesville and Albemarle for the study of ecology for over 20 years. If this campaign is successful, Camp Albemarle could operate year-round. Consider your support by visiting

Albemarle elected officials continue conversation on how to pay for $318M school capital request

Last week, the Albemarle School Board met with the Board of Supervisors for a work session on financial planning that will be required to help cover the school system’s request for $318 million over five years to build two new schools, buy land for a third, and renovate existing ones. I wrote up the details of the request last week and this next piece captures the discussions of how to pay for it. (review the presentation)

That part of the conversation began with a note from Andy Bowman, the chief of the county’s Office of Management and Budget, about changing one policy. Currently Albemarle seeks to cap the percentage of debt service to revenues below a certain amount. Bowman said one scenario would be to expand that to eight percent. 

“If we went to eight percent, there would be another $37 million under the county’s financial policies that could be borrowed that,” Bowman said. “That capacity is not planned for at this time because everyone at this table knows very well, that is not free money and we have to think about the other financial side. It’s just the borrowing but how it gets repaid.”

The county could go up to 10 percent, but that would take away funding that could otherwise go to other projects. 

Page 47 of the presentation made to Supervisors and the School Board (Credit: Albemarle County)

No decisions have to be made this early in the process, but the discussions were intended to inform staff on potential direction.

“This is not the end and the final decision for any of the schools or other needs that we have,” said Nelsie Birch, the county’s chief financial officer. “These discussions really are a way to inform [County Executive Jeffrey] Richardson  who has to present a balanced budget to the Board of Supervisors in February.” 

One option would be to raise the real property tax rate from the current 85.4 cents per $100 of assessed value. However, Birch said rising assessments have already brought in additional revenue. 

“The Board always has the opportunity or the option to increase the tax rate,” Birch said. “For today, we have effectively increased taxes in 2023 to the equivalent of 9.9 cents. You just didn’t increase the tax rate.” 

Another option would be a local sales tax increase dedicated to capital construction, but that avenue is likely closed as long as the Republican Party holds one of the two houses in General Assembly. Legislation to allow localities to hold referendums on an increase without state permission failed in a House of Delegates committee last February. (House subcommittee kills schools sales-tax bills, February 25, 2022)

In Virginia, School Boards have no power to raise taxes themselves. That’s entirely up to the Board of Supervisors or City Councils. But School Boards do prioritize what they want to have built. 

Kate Acuff, School Board member for the Jack Jouett District, said her elected body has opted to proceed with creation of two High School Centers because that is a cheaper option than building a new school. The first Center is in operation at Seminole Place and a second will be built on county-owned land in Mill Creek. 

“We have on our side made a huge effort to economic in terms of  capital costs,” Acuff said. 

Acuff also said the county has other initiatives it could appeal to in order to justify some expenses, such as installing more costly geothermal systems for heating rather than build cheaper boilers. 

“How wedded to a Climate Action Plan is the county because it’s cheaper for us to build a school that’s not as efficient,” Acuff said. 

Supervisor Diantha McKeel noted that there are $16.8 million in projects identified to help improve the Lambs Lane Campus where she said about a quarter of the student population attends. She noted that some of those improvements are road projects and Supervisors might seek funds that the School Board cannot apply for directly.

“To be a little innovative about this, let’s look at how we can work together perhaps using revenue-sharing money, Smart Scale funding, transportation funding for the Board of Supervisors to make perhaps that happen but the Board of Supervisors have to talk about that first,” McKeel said. 

Both McKeel and Ned Gallaway were on the School Board before being elected as Supervisors. Gallaway had a series of questions. First, he wanted to know if the tax rate would need to be increased to achieve that $37 million in additional revenue that Bowman had mentioned.

“As it is today, we’d have to increase taxes by how much?” Gallaway asked. 

Birch and Bowman said 1.5 cents dedicated to capital would cover the additional debt service but they would need to do further analysis. To fully fund the $318 million request would require a much higher rate increase but the finance staff did not have the exact numbers. 

Gallaway also said the county and school board should consider working on some items together. For instance, there is a $1.7 million request from the School Board in FY24 for a data center. Gallaway suggested that could be reviewed as part of a larger county-wide study.

“The Supervisors will be getting a facilities study that’s going to be coming to us with next steps and recommendations about how we use our space,” Gallaway said.

That includes land on Berkmar Drive Extended given to the county as a proffer that has not yet been programmed. 

Another item not yet known include the results of the 2023 reassessment. 

At the end of the meeting, School Board Chair Graham Paige listed items he would like to have. 

“I would like to have if possible have some pros and cons about a tax referendum, what would be some good points for having it, and then some cons, some bad points for having it if possible,” Paige said. 

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will further continue discussion of the five-year financial plan at their meeting on Wednesday. 

Reading material: 

#470 is not an interstate highway

Welcome to the end of this installment which I suspect may be the least read and least heard version of this newsletter. This is where I am more likely to include secret messages but rest assured that this is likely only for the purposes of wordplay.

I hope to publish a newsletter every day this week as there’s a lot to go through. I do plan to slow down the week of Christmas, but the world won’t stop moving. Thank you to all of the various people who are supporting the work with a paid subscription. You can join them on Substack and Ting will match your initial payment. 

Either way, do consider Ting for high-speed Internet. If you sign up at this link and enter the promo code COMMUNITY, you’ll get:

  • Free installation

  • A second month for free

  • A $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall

Thank you to Bree Luck for the audio help with a soundbite today. In return, here’s her shout-out to a nonprofit is for Live Arts as well as the Blue Ridge Abortion Fund.