Charlottesville’s draft capital budget includes $50 million for middle school reconfiguration

The Charlottesville City Council will be presented with a $160 million five-year capital improvement program (CIP) that anticipates spending $50 million on a reconfiguration of middle school education. 

Council and School Board will meet Thursday, January 28 at 5 p.m. to discuss budget preparations. (meeting info)

Staff has not recommended new funding for the West Main Streetscape in Charlottesville’s proposed capital improvement program for the next fiscal year, though the first phase of the project is fully funded. The future of a second phase is not certain at this time.  

“The current CIP draft reflects priorities raised by City Council in previous budget work sessions,” said Charlottesville Communications Director Brian Wheeler. ”The inclusion of a $50 million placeholder for the City Schools reconfiguration project means other projects have to be reconsidered.”

The draft capital improvement program for FY22-FY27 is ready for review

While capital improvement budgets look ahead for five years, Council will only adopt an actual budget for fiscal year 2022, which begins on July 1. The proposed budget for FY22 is for $35.4 million, with $26.8 million anticipated to come from the sale of municipal bonds. 

The draft CIP also continues the city’s $10 million investment in a new parking structure at the corner of Market Street and 9th Street. The project’s purpose is to support a new General District court to be used by both Albemarle County and Charlottesville. 

The five-year budget anticipates a total of $13.5 million in investment in new construction of Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority including $1.5 million in FY22. 

“This funding is the second year of a original City projected commitment of $15 million for the redevelopment of the public housing sites,” reads a summary of projects.  In October, Council signaled they would approve a performance agreement governing the use of $3 million to help finance the Crescent Halls redevelopment and the first phase of redevelopment at South First Street. 

The draft CIP restores several budget line items that were zeroed out for the current fiscal year. Instead of spending about $6.7 million of general fund revenue for certain items that could not be paid for through the sale of bonds, Council agreed with a plan to put that money aside in case of a shortfall. 

For FY22, the draft budget restores funding to “non-bondable” items such as “city-wide traffic engineering improvements”  and “bicycle infrastructure,” as well as funding for parks. 

The draft budget also includes $800,000 a year in funding for the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund, for a total of $4 million. The specific use of those funds would be determined later.  

Another significant project that would be paid for with cash is $2 million for infrastructure at Friendship Court. That’s separate from $394,841 for the first phase of Friendship Court redevelopment and $750,000 for phase two. Council approved a performance agreement for that funding in October

School reconfiguration

The basic details of a plan to reconfigure Charlottesville’s middle schools were presented to the City School Board in December 2018. Michael Goddard is a project manager with the city who addressed Council at a work session on November 20, 2020.

“The plan is to utilize existing public properties so no land acquisition would be required,” Goddard said. “We would like to expand the pre-school and provide best-in-class wrap-around services, move 5th grade back to the elementary schools, reduce middle year transitions. By adding the 6th grade to Buford, we would make that a three year school.” 

Both Walker Upper Elementary and Buford Middle School were built in the 1960’s. Goddard said another goal is to eliminate students needing to go outside to transfer between buildings.

Presentation from December 19, 2018 Charlottesville School Board meeting

The project has a placeholder cost estimate of about $55 million based on work conducted by the firm VMDO. In the fiscal year budget for 2020, Council authorized $3 million for design and pre-engineering.

“What we expect to see from our architect as part of this initial phase is a visioning document which gives us a general idea of what we can do, a goals and objectives document which lays out exactly what it is we intend to accomplish,” Goddard said. 

West Main Streetscape

The firm Rhodeside and Harwell has been paid at least $2.8 million to develop design and construction documents for the three-quarter mile stretch between the University Corner and the Downtown Mall.

A value engineering study intended to reduce the costs will be shared with Council on Monday. 

A slide from the September 30, 2020 City Council work session on the West Main Streetscape. (preview story) (summary story)

A total of $12.95 million was requested for the West Main Streetscape project in FY22 , but was not included.  The project was split by Council into four phases in October 2017 in order to help secure funding. Phase 1 spans from West Main’s intersection with Ridge Street and McIntire Street to 6th Street NW. 

“Phase 1 remains funded from prior CIP allocations,” Wheeler said. “The local allocations to Phase 1 are $3,162,045 spent and $13,422,860 available.” 

The city received $3.2 million in VDOT revenue-sharing funds for West Main Phase 1, and the city will still spend $13.4 million in city funds. 

Phase 2 travels between 6th Street NW and 8th Street NW. The city received $2 million in VDOT revenue sharing and $2 million in VDOT Smart Scale funding for this phase. The city had anticipated spending $7.1 million in capital funds but that is not reflected in the current CIP. 

“We expect City Council to provide additional feedback on both phases in the budget discussions,” Wheeler said. 

City staff had not budgeted spending any city money on West Main’s Phase 3, which spans from 8th Street NW to Roosevelt Brown Boulevard. Last year, Council agreed to submit a $10.38 million request to the VDOT’s Smart Scale process. Last week, staff recommended funding of this project. 

As of last September, the city had not identified a funding source for Phase 4 which has a preliminary cost estimate of $8.7 million. 

A former chief operating officer at the University of Virginia said in a March 2018 letter to Council that UVA would allocate $5 million for the city to use on the West Main Streetscape. The offer still stands. 

“The University remains committed to its funding pledge for the West Main Streetscape project,” wrote UVA spokesman Brian Coy. “Per discussions with the City, our intent is to focus on safety and security improvements towards the western end of Main Street, supporting both students and the broader community.”

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