October 25, 2022: Design still underway for entrance to Biscuit Run Park; Council poised to approve $200K to keep Premier Circle shelter open until end of next April
Plus: City Council briefed on "much tighter" budget for FY24
What do the numbers ten and 25 have in common? They are both multiples of five. They both represent different amounts of coins in American currency. They’ve been rumored to go on vacation from time to time. But when you put them together, you get October 25, which is the 299th day of three out of four years, including this one. I’m Sean Tubbs, and this is the relevant edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement for this day.
You’ll need to click through to the website to see this entire post.
In today’s edition:
The Virginia Department of Transportation has not yet signed off on an entrance way into the future Biscuit Run Park
Charlottesville City Council gives further direction at an early work session in the development of the next budget
Council is poised to approve $200,000 in funding to keep the Premier Circle shelter open through the end of April
There’s also another $20,000 in funds to help purchase reusable bags for eligible populations for when the city begins charging five cents for each plastic one
Whether you pay or not, signing up is a great way to get the information. Paying helps ensure it will keep flowing
First shout-out is for LEAP’s new Thermalize Virginia program
In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out: Have you been thinking of converting your fossil-fuel appliances and furnaces into something that will help the community reduce its greenhouse gas emissions? Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP, has launched a new program to guide you through the steps toward electrifying your home. Thermalize Virginia will help you understand electrification and connect you with vetted contractors to get the work done and help you find any rebates or discounts. Visit thermalizeva.org to learn more and to sign up!
Fall 2023 date current target for roadway entrance to Biscuit Run Park
It has been nearly 12 years since the Commonwealth of Virginia purchased nearly 800 acres in Albemarle County’s growth area for the purposes of creating a state park. The land had been slated for the Biscuit Run mixed-use development, but the previous developer found a buyer in then-Governor Tim Kaine.
It has been nearly five years since the Commonwealth of Virginia entered into a ground lease with Albemarle for the county to program the 1,200 acre park, an agreement signed by then Governor Terry McAuliffe in January 2018.
McAuliffe had requested a $42 million bond package during the 2016 General Assembly but that did not make it through to passage. That would have paid for at least some of a master plan to program the park.
At the time the county accepted the park, they had expected to use $5 million in mitigation funds from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline for programming. However, that project has since been canceled. That’s meant the county has had to invest its own funds to open the park on a limited basis known as Phase 1A and Phase 1B. From page 296 of the FY23 budget:
“Elements of these phases include: a park entrance with an asphalt access road; parking spaces; a vault toilet; design and construction of a parks maintenance facility; multi-use trail system expansion including new trail boardwalk and footbridges; and connector greenway trail enabling bike and pedestrian connections with destinations beyond the park itself.”
The main element in Phase1A is the park’s entrance from Route 20. Design has been underway for some time and at one point this phase had been expected to be complete by the end of 2021.
However, according to a new report from the county’s Department of Facilities and Environmental Services, the Virginia Department of Transportation needs to sign off on the schematics and additional survey work has been conducted in order for a waiver to be granted.
“The design team is currently working on field survey to finalize the waiver submission, County site plan, and Water Protection Ordinance plan submissions,” reads page 12 of the Fall 2022 report.
The report states the goal is to advertise for a company to perform grading work for the project this year with construction starting early next year with a “substantial completion” date of next fall.
This particular story will be updated between now and the time it moves over to the Information Charlottesville archive.
City Manager Rogers predicts more difficult budget season for FY24
There are 168 days until Charlottesville City Council will vote on a budget for fiscal year 2024, which begins on July 1, 2023 Between now and then a lot of things will happen, including discussions of a capital improvement program, final direction on the expansions and renovations at Buford Middle School, and a fresh round of real property assessments for over 15,000 parcels in Charlottesville.
Soon after Council adopted the FY23 budget and the first real property tax rate increase in at least 30 years, the five members expressed a desire to get involved with the process earlier in the year. That’s why a budget work session was held on October 17. (work session materials)
“We paid attention to that in the schedule this year and this is the first effort for us to lay out for you what the budget process will be and to discuss some of the challenges and opportunities that we will have in FY24,” said Michael C. Rogers, the interim city manager.
One key date is February 15. That’s the date that public notice for increases in tax rates are due.
“So if we want to talk about any changes in any of the real estate tax rates, we need to do that and we’ll talk about that before February 15,” said Krisy Hammill, the city’s director of budget and performance measurement.
Charlottesville City Council will officially review the budget for the first time on March 6. Between now and then, a lot of things will happen including a review of the Capital Improvement Program budget by the Planning Commission. Submissions from departments were due October 7, and Hammill said there were significant increases in the financial amounts requested.
A lot of things are happening in the budget for the current fiscal year. Council has agreed to use one-time funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to hire more personnel including $1.1 million to create three battalion chiefs in the Charlottesville Fire Department, $176,000 for the Human Rights Office to hire an investigator, and nearly $700,000 to increase salaries for school bus drivers and Charlottesville Area Transit drivers.
The next budget will have to be built off of those additional salaries without the likelihood of new cash from the federal government. The city is also responsible to pay for new firefighters that had been hired using a federal grant.
“So all of these together total about $3.5 million that the expenditure budget will be increased as we start this process,” Hammill said.
Hammill projects tax revenues to grow between two percent and four percent, and she expects a $4 million surplus by the end of the current fiscal year. However, she said there are a lot of unknowns that could come up over the next three quarters.
“It’s unknown at this point how meals, sales, and lodging, whether they will continue to perform strongly or whether we’ll begin to see some impacts as things with the national economy change,” Hammill said.
There’s also concern that higher interest rates may have an effect on the upward climb of property assessments.
Other factors for Council to consider are the effect of collective bargaining on salaries, the future of Charlottesville Area Transit, and an increasing need to maintain sidewalks and build new ones.
Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers said the FY22 budget may in $14.3 million of additional revenue for the city to spend, and a final number will be presented to Council in December. As of now, the FY23 budget is projected to result in around $4 million. He said conditions will be different in FY24. (this paragraph was updated after publication)
“This next budget will be much tighter and the decisions that Council will have to make will be much harder,” Rogers said.
Hammill said the process will be similar to how it always is.
“Just like for any other city, there are always way more needs than we have funding and I think that it’s important that we’re able to keep communication lines open and that Council is able to keep us informed of what your priorities are and where you’d like your focus to be,” Hammill said.
City Councilor Brian Pinkston said he wanted his colleagues to go into the budget understanding that further tax increases may be necessary to cover all of the desired spending.
“From my perspective at least I want us to go into this knowing that its possible we may have to raise the real estate tax,” Pinkston said. “I hope not.”
Last year, Council advertised a potential tax rate increase of ten cents, but Rogers’ recommended budget did not use it. Council opted to go for a one cent increase.
“We’re going to try to balance the budget with the revenue that we know and then Council will have some choices to make,” Rogers said.
One of the biggest factors will be the final direction the renovation and expansion of Buford Middle School. The School Board had a briefing on that in September and saw estimates higher due to inflation.
City Councilor Michael Payne said he has been critical of using American Rescue Plan Act funds in broad categories and hoped further allocation could be more strategic.
“This budget cycle is going to be a list of 20 things that are all very important and legitimate but how are we going to prioritize what makes it to the top this budget cycle?”
Payne said he believes it's important to continue funding affordable housing projects built by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the Piedmont Housing Alliance. The Affordable Housing Plan adopted by Council in March 2021 calls on Council to spend $10 million a year in this area, including hiring of staff to monitor whether projects actually remain affordable.
“I think there would be some pretty enormous consequences if we’re not able to fund those projects and they basically have to stop half way,” Payne said.
Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook’s priority is shoring up the city’s work force.
“I’ve been telling folks for the last six months that this coming budget is going to be dominated more than anything else by attention to staff salaries and personnel issues,” Snook said. “If that means what we need to rebuild the staff and to hire the 70 positions that we are now down… that it’s not going to happen with less money.”
City Councilor Sena Magill said she supported spending more money on staff salaries.
“I’m willing to raise taxes on this,” Magill said. “Affordable housing? We’re not going to get deeply affordable housing unless we are making an investment in public funds.”
Open jobs include:
Labor Relations Manager ($100K to $131K)
Senior Budget and Management Analyst ($60.6K - $90.8K)
Landscape / Natural Resources Manager ($61.3K - $90.7K)
Project Manager - Public Works ($60.6K - $87.8K)
More on the budget as it develops.
Want to keep a close eye on the budget process? Sign up for this newsletter and consider becoming a paid subscriber.
Second shout-out: Charlottesville Jazz Society has a concert coming up
In today’s second subscriber-supported shout-out, the Charlottesville Jazz Society wants you to know about their last show of the year coming up on October 28. The Society will present French modern jazz group OZMA as they celebrate their 20th anniversary with the first ever tour of the United States. Borrowing largely from rock grammars, traditional music, and electronic landscapes, OZMA’s music has been praised for its willingness to imagine John Coltrane jamming with Radiohead, or explosive drummer Billy Cobham playing with the best New Orleans brass bands.The show is Friday, October 28 at Unity of Charlottesville on Hydraulic Road. For tickets and more information visit cvillejazz.org.
Back to City Council
There were a lot of action items in Charlottesville City Council’s October 17 meeting. So many of them were covered in the October 20 edition of this newsletter and are now archived on Information Charlottesville.
Council vacates sewer easement for 209 Maury Avenue project, October 20, 2022
Business license rules changes to list “writer” as taxable profession, October 20, 2022
Council approves changes to transient lodging tax ordinance, October 20, 2022
Council considers funding for Avon fuel tank replacement, October 20, 2022
Council agrees to adopt guidelines for procurement, October 20, 2022
But that wasn’t it. There are more items from that meeting to go.
Council holds first reading of $200K to keep Premier Circle shelter open through end of April
First, Council was asked to appropriate $565,000 from the city’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP). That’s part of a larger pot that Councilor Michael Payne alluded to earlier.
“There’s currently about $2.3 million of unallocated ARP money,” said Chris Cullinan, the city’s finance director.
Council was asked to approve specifics on how to spend that $565,000. This round was mostly intended to purchase items for the city.
$50,000 to hire additional ambassadors through the end of the year to assist with the opening of City Hall
$300,000 to purchase additional Automated External Defibrillators (AED) for city facilities
$15,000 to upgrade the city’s access control badge system for employees
$200,000 to continue funding emergency shelter operations at Premier Circle
That latter amount is the city’s share of a $500,000 project to cover the cost the 92-bed, non-congregate Premier Circle Emergency Shelter. That’s a joint initiative of the Blue Ridge Area Coalition for the Homeless, the Piedmont Housing Alliance, and the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation.
(The following paragraph was updated with a clarification on October 26, 2022)
Albemarle is being asked to contribute $200,000 and University of Virginia Health is being asked to contribute $100,000. This would cover operations from January 2023 to April 2023.
“Long term it is actually going to be developed as permanent supportive housing and affordable housing,” said Anthony Haro of the Blue Ridge Coalition for the Homeless. “That’s the future of the site. Eighty units of permanent supportive housing is going to be developed by Virginia Supportive Housing and then sixty units of multifamily affordable housing will be developed as well by Piedmont Housing Alliance.
Haro said the emergency shelter will remain open until the end of April. The shelter at the former Red Carpet Inn on U.S. 29 is operated by the group People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry, or PACEM.
“What happens for those folks after April,” asked Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook.
“We’re doing our best to provide case management, transition to housing in the community,” Haro said. “Should that not be available, and housing is very difficult to come by even though we have rental assistance opportunities and housing choice vouchers as well for many of the people at the Premier Circle program.”
Haro said after April 30 there will be efforts to keep an emergency shelter open for those community members.
“In May, Virginia Supportive Housing plans to break ground,” Haro said.
Virginia Supportive Housing is the developer of the 60-unit Crossings at Fourth and Preston which was completed in 2012.
“VSH offers on-site supportive services through case managers who help residents stabilize, reclaim their lives and retain their housing,” reads the VSH website on the project.
Haro acknowledged the need for additional emergency shelters and said there is work underway to locate sites for that use. The executive director of PACEM gave an update.
“PACEM has begun very actively to explore what a permanent fixed-site full-year round shelter would look like,” said Jayson Whitehead. “That’s while continuing to run Premier Circle where we have around 70 folks right now.”
Whitehead said PACEM is also gearing up to operate cold-weather emergency-shelters for the winter.
Several Councilors said they would like to assist with efforts to create a permanent emergency shelter.
“I would love to see that and I believe the city, maybe we could partner with IMPACT or whoever to try to figure out something that’s permanent,” said City Councilor Brian Pinkston.
“I would like to see a true mission center type where you can go in and really get all of the services that they need and not necessarily direct them to a different place,” said Vice Mayor Juandiego Wade. “I think Roanoke has one and other cities have places like that.”
Council held the first reading of this item and it will come back on the consent agenda for the November 7 meeting.
City to spend $20K on reusable bags for those on benefits
In their final action, Council held first reading on an item to spend $20,000 to purchase reusable bags for those on federal or state benefits. The 2020 General Assembly authorized localities in Virginia to authorize a 5 cent tax on plastic bags.
“We along with Albemarle County will be launching that January 1,” said Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders. “We continue to work closely with the county to make sure that our efforts are in alignment with theirs because our residents move back and forth between the city and the county, we want to ensure that there’s no real concern in regards to understanding what’s different whatever we may be doing so our goal is to try to do it in conjunction with another.”
The $20,000 is an estimate of what may be required to purchase the bags. The revenue will come from whatever the tax yields when it is collected. Anyone on SNAP or WIC benefits will be eligible to receive up to two bags.
“It is our desire that we would eventually be able to come back to Council once we have better clarity as to how much is generated,” Sanders said. “There may be a surplus over the replacement of this $20,000 that we might be able to expand bag distribution to other populations that may need that intervention.”
The funding can also be used for environmental education or litter clean-up. Sanders said the bag itself will be of high-quality material. What does each cost?
“$3.57,” Sanders said.
This will also be on Council’s consent agenda on November 7.
Other articles to read:
Shea House celebrates 20 years of language immersion, Kate Hunter, Cavalier Daily, October 23, 2022
Inova Health activates emergency operations due to surge in flu-like illnesses, Inside Nova, October 24, 2022
The Downtown Mall is getting its first ever public bathroom — and community members are ‘ecstatic’, Erin O’Hare, Charlottesville Tomorrow, October 24, 2022
Charlottesville Downtown Mall slaying victim identified, witness recalls event, Hawes Spencer, Daily Progress, October 25, 2022
Albemarle County man arrested for putting noose on Homer statue at UVa, Bryan McKenzie, Daily Progress, October 25, 2022
Keeping the house in order at the end of #448
The goal is always to get these out early, but sometimes a meeting comes along that it takes several editions to get through it all. There is so much to cover in any given week, and there are definitely times when I know that Charlottesville Community Engagement could use additional staff. Perhaps by episode #996 there will be more than just myself, but until then, I can honestly say I am living out a life-long dream.
And you are all sustaining it simply by reading or listening. My business model is based on the idea that roughly one in four of your will make a contribution, something that’s held up for the past two years and remains on track. I believe that there are many in the community who want detailed information about what’s happening, and that’s the career I’ve trained for and in which many invested in at earlier parts of my career.
An added bonus is that Ting will match the initial payment if you decide to contribute $5 a month, $50 a year, or $200 a year through Substack! You’ll get the occasional first-look at some content, and you will know that you’re helping me write and produce a great amount of material each and every week.
And even if you don’t sign up for a paid subscription to this newsletter, Ting wants your business, and if you sign up through a link in the newsletter you will get free installation, a $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall, and a second month for free. Just enter the promo code COMMUNITY.
Please drop me a line if you have any questions. Correspondence often takes a while at the moment. It is good to be busy, and I thank you for paying attention.