February 25, 2023: Albemarle Supervisors presented with $551.5M budget with no tax rate increases; UVA Foundation to add outdoor event space at Birdwood
Plus: A legislative round-up including a bill to define coal mine methane capture as a green job
Another rare Saturday edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement is upon us, as there were too many distractions to complete the work on Friday. It is the hope to one day have each and every episode come out at a consistent time. Each installment of the program is a test of the orbital mechanics that would be required to attain that goal. I’m Sean Tubbs and I know again there is much in the universe to observe and I’m hoping to always expand the capacity to do so.
On today’s edition:
A former member of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors has died
Charlottesville awards a contract to replace the Dairy Road Bridge
The 2023 session of the General Assembly is almost over and dozens of bills are heading to Governor Youngkin for signatures including legislation on green jobs, cloud computing, and innovative power
The University of Virginia Foundation plans to renovate the Birdwood Mansion and add space for outdoor events
Albemarle County Supervisors are presented with a $551.5 million budget for FY24
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Shout-out WTJU seeks hosts for classical music
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Three term Supervisor Boyd dies
A man who served three terms on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and one term on the Albemarle School Board has died at the age of 75. Kenneth C. Boyd left office at the end of 2015 after representing the Rivanna District as Supervisor for 12 years and moved to North Carolina sometime afterward, according to an obituary published in the Charlottesville Daily Progress.
Boyd is a native of Washington D.C. who moved to Albemarle County in the early 80’s for a job at Jefferson National Bank. He went into business for himself as a financial planner and got involved with politics soon after. Boyd was elected to the Rivanna District on the School Board in 1999. He defeated Democrat Peter Hallock in the 2003 race with 52.56 percent of the race and posted similar narrow victories in 2007 and 2011.
A memorial service to his life will be held in Southport, North Carolina on March 18.
City awards design-build contract for Dairy Bridge replacement
For many years, the city has been planning and preparing to replace a bridge that carries Dairy Road over the U.S. 250 Bypass. On Thursday, the city awarded a “design build” contract to the firm A. Morton and Associates.
“In this method, the designer and builder work on the same team from preliminary design to project close-out,” reads a press release that went out in January. “This method allows better communication of intent and constructability right from the start.”
The two-lane bridge was built in 1954 according to a database maintained by the Federal Highway Administration. The official estimate for the project is $7.211 million according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Under this scenario, A. Morton and Associates will both design and build the bridge. This eliminates one step in the process and the city is hopeful it will help bring down the overall cost. This will be the first such “design-build” project in Charlottesville. That press release from January said the goal is to have the replacement in place by December 2023. (previous coverage)
Shout-out: Sierra Club to screen Earth Emergency film
And in a second shout-out to start the show: On March 1 at 7 p.m. the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club is screening a film called Earth Emergency about the threats from feedback loops as more greenhouse gasses are pumped into the atmosphere. The short film features Richard Gere and Greta Thunberg. The event is virtual and you can learn more on the Sierra Club’s website.
Legislative update: Coal mine methane as a green job? Smaller batch beer licenses?
The end of the 2023 General Assembly regular session is nigh! Though, the Richmond Times-Dispatch times reports the actual end will be delayed due to the delay of a printing of the budget that still needs to be voted upon.
But, the House of Delegates and the Senate meet late this week to take action on bills that have passed in both chambers but in slightly different forms. This report is being written the morning of February 25, so I’ll limit myself to what’s made it out of conference to be adopted. Here some of the bills that have gone through the process that are now waiting for Governor Glenn Youngkin’s signature.
The list of definitions for “green job” that can qualify a business for tax credits could be expanded. HB2178 would add “coal mine methane” to the list. Under this program, businesses get a $500 tax credit for every job created that has an annual salary of at least $50,000. The Senate agreed to the bill on a 39 to 1 vote while the House of Delegates passed it on a 66 to 26 vote.
There may be a new beer license for those who want to distribute less than 500 barrels of beer each year. This license would technically be held by a new nonprofit to be created by the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services. HB2258 passed the House on a 97 to 2 vote and unanimously in the Senate.
Members of the National Guard would see an increase in the tax credit they receive for their service from $3,000 a year to $5,500 a year. The original bill had the amount of $5,000 but was increased during the legislative process. This passed both chambers unanimously though Delegates did not vote. (HB2373)
A tax credit available for farmers for donation of food crops or food products would be renewed until the end of 2027. This also passed unanimously. (HB2445)
Legislation to create something called the Cloud Computing Cluster Infrastructure Grant Fund did not pass unanimously, but did so with a heavy majority at least. The bill would exempt data centers from sales tax when they purchase or lease computer equipment. There’s a lot of detail about how the exemption can be maintained if a certain number of high-paying jobs are created. Anyone interested in data centers should take a look at the details on the amended HB2479 which passed the House of Delegates on a 87 to 11 vote with one abstention and passed the Senate 35 to 4. Both Delegate Sally Hudson and Delegate Nick Freitas voted against the bill. Delegate Rob Bell voted for it.
SB1464 would create the Virginia Power Innovation Fund which would award competitive grants for research into energy technologies including hydrogen, carbon capture and utilization, and energy storage. This would also generate funding for the creation of a Virginia energy innovation hub. The bill passed the Senate 39 to 1 and the House 90 to 4.
Many more bills have otherwise been signed by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate. That includes a bill to expand the eligibility for the Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship Program, a bill to give landlords more time to present an itemized list of damages upon move out, and a bill to expand state payments for the upkeep of African American cemeteries.
Here’s the full list if you want to take a look. Otherwise I’ll keep reporting bits and pieces as I can.
Albemarle County land use round-up: Convenience store returning to I-64 / U.S. 29 intersection
Every now and then there are items in Albemarle County land use documents that may not rise to a full news story but may be worth telling you about anyway. Here is the latest such a post:
A zoning clearance has been filed for a convenience store at 777 Monacan Trail, three quarters of a mile southwest of the I-64 interchange with U.S. 29. There used to be a previous convenience store at the location called Hickory Hill. The new business would be called El Tako Nako Store. This will also need to go through the Architectural Review Board. (ARB202300024)
The University of Virginia Foundation has filed plans for the rehabilitation of the Birdwood Mansion including additionals for event space. The site plan shows a small addition to the existing mansion as well as dedicated space for three tents on enhanced gardens. (ARB202300020)
Riverbend Development has filed for a rezoning for nearly 33 acres of undeveloped land in Crozet along the future Eastern Avenue Connector. The proposal is to rezone from single-family residential to Planned Residential Development at a scale of six units per acre, for a maximum of 134 units. (ZMA20230002)
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Albemarle Supervisors presented with $551.5 million budget for FY24
The process of adopting a budget is underway in Albemarle County with the release this week of County Executive Jeffrey Richardson’s nearly $551.5 million budget for fiscal year 2024. A public hearing will be held on March 1 before a series of work sessions where the six Supervisors will go through the budget line by line. (view the draft budget document)
“This budget is balanced on the same tax rates as the current year,” Richardson told the Albemarle Board of Supervisors at their meeting on February 22.
That includes the personal property tax rate which will remain at the lowered rate of $3.42 per $100 of assessed value. The real property tax rate will remain at $0.854 per $100 of assessed value. The average real property assessment was up 13.46 percent, generating an additional $27,262,905.
The equalized tax rate is $0.753. That’s the tax rate to that would keep the budget flat. State code requires this figure to be presented to the public.
The title of this budget is “Activating The Strategic Plan to Strengthen Our Foundation.”
Supervisors adopted their latest strategic plan last October, as I wrote about at the time.
The Strategic Plan differs from the Comprehensive Plan in that it is a method of organizing the priorities for Albemarle County staff. The six general strategic planning areas are:
Safety & Well-Being
Resilient, Equitable, and Engaged Community
Infrastructure & Placemaking
Quality of Life
Education & Learning
Workforce and Customer Service
This budget is also informed by an economic outlook delivered to Supervisors on October 5, 2022 by Dr. Sheryl Bailey, a visiting economist at Virginia Tech. (read that report)
“This Board gave her over an hour of your time and she talked to us about the national economy, the state economy, and a forward focus on what do we need to be lookin for,” Richardson said. “One major takeaway is that Albemarle County’s economy generally follows the state and national trends, and it’s prudent for Albemarle County to anticipate economic cooling in the year to two year period ahead.”
Dr. Bailey is still consulting with budget staff on the macroeconomic drivers. One of the biggest drivers is increasing inflation.
“While it has gone down month over month for the first time in a year, it still remains at 6.5 percent over the last 12 months,” Richardson said. “That’s an issue for us. It’s an issue for the private sector. It’s an issue for Albemarle County government, and it’s an issue for our partner agencies.”
Those partner agencies include the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority, Charlottesville Area Transit, Jaunt, the Emergency Communications Center, the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, and the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau. He said the formulas and agreements that provide the revenue to those organizations require an additional $3 million for those groups.
Richardson said the cost of projects in the capital improvement program are anticipated to cost an additional $38 million.
“Our capital needs have not gone away in the past year and the percentage increase in costs outpaces our revenues so in this budget, I will increase the transfer to the capital program over and above formula by $16.7 million,” Richardson said. “That’s one-time funding going to the capital program to cover the increase costs without having to slow down our progress or scale back projects in order to meet our strategic priorities.”
Overall, the proposed budget for FY24 is smaller than the one proposed for FY23. That’s in part because federal funding generated by the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan Act has now expired, and because there will be less revenue from the sale of bonds.
But where does all the money go?
“Fifty-seven percent of our money goes to public schools,” Richardson said. “Fifty [percent] to operations, four [percent] to school capital, and three [percent] to school debt.”
Richardson said the recommended FY24 budget fully funds Superintendent Matthew Haas’ request and adds an additional $14.6 million in new revenue to the schools due to a formula. The five year capital plan anticipates $194 million for capital projects including two elementary schools and High School Center 2, as well as an expansion at Mountain View Elementary School.
Richardson said the recommended budget will pay for the full cost to upfit the former J.C. Penney Building at Fashion Square Mall to serve as fleet maintenance for the police department and fire rescue department.
“In addition to that we’ve got added in the budget three new police officers and one support position,” Richardson said. “I’ve also added in the budget a third round of SAFER grant requests to the federal government.”
Richardson said this will continue the trend of hiring more paid fire and rescue personnel and this request is for 35 positions. The county will find out in the summer if the grant is awarded to cover start-up costs. (previous coverage)
The budget funds a new baling facility for the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority to make paper recycling more efficient and cost-effective. The operational costs for the new Southern Convenience Center that will open later this year are fully funded.
“Next year under Quality of Life we are planning to open Biscuit Run, we are planning to open a park, the Rivanna Village park in eastern Albemarle,” Richardson said. “We are going to do internal planning for an urban pocket park. We’ve not determined where that will be but it will be in the urban ring.”
There’s $3.9 million that will go to the county’s housing fund. There’s also funding for economic development efforts to help further implement the Project Enable strategic plan.
“This is an area that can have an effect on our overall tax base,” Richardson said. “Commercial activity can reduce the reliance on the real property tax.”
A four percent increase in salaries for county employees is also built into the budget. Additionally, a compensation study is being reviewed and there is additional funding to cover the cost of implementation. This will be the subject of a work session on March 29.
Budgets can be very confusing and a key thing for people to know is that the county’s financial management policies include a practice of requiring a fund balance of 10 percent of the operating budget at the end of a fiscal year. In recent years, a second policy to set aside an additional percentage for a “budget stabilization reserve has been increased from one percent to two percent.
“We keep that in the event that we need it for unexpected reasons,” said Nelsie Birch, the county’s finance director. “So we never intend to spend the rainy day fund which is that ten percent. That two percent, the reason we wanted to increase it last year was because we knew that this economic uncertainty was going to happen. And so it isn’t a surplus like an ongoing surplus. It’s a protected reserve to help us now have to go back and cancel programming and cancel things that you all have said you want to do in our budget.”
For instance, Birch said the county drew down $7 million from the fund balance in FY2022 to balance the budget. These policies are part of what keeps agencies rating Albemarle’s bond as AAA, which means lower interest rates on debt service.
Now, some next dates. In addition to the March 1 public hearing in the evening session, there will be a series of work sessions beginning on March 8. On March 15, Supervisors will vote on the tax rates to advertise for adoption. The March 22 work session will include a discussion on transit. Adoption is set for May 3.
Supervisors largely reserved questions for the work sessions. Supervisor Donna Price had this observation.
“This appears to really be the first year that we actually will have a regular budget process because in 2020 in February as we sat here, within two weeks we went from a presentation much like this to a pandemic,” Price said.
More on the budget as things go through. Any questions?
Four-term School Board member Leah Puryear is Charlottesville’s new City Council appointee, Eshaan Sarup, February 22, 2023
Man dead after Tuesday shooting at Albemarle County apartment complex, Alice Berry, Charlottesville Daily Progress, February 22, 2023
Bert Ellis threatens to “raise hell with the BOV” in text messages to Board members, U.Va. officials, Ava MacBlane and Lexi Baker, Cavalier Daily, February 23, 2023
Charlottesville police to increase patrols after recent killings, Hawes Spencer, Charlottesville Daily Progress, February 24, 2023
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