(This post originally appeared in the February 25, 2021 installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement)
Albemarle County Executive Jeffrey Richardson unveiled a $466 million recommended operating budget for the Board of Supervisors to review over the several weeks. (review the recommended FY22 budget)
“This year’s budget theme pulls forward the budget theme year from fiscal year 21 which was ‘Respond, Recover and Recalibrate’,” Richardson said.
That budget was altered on the fly as the economy was shut down to in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Positions were frozen and both operating and capital expenditures were cut back while the financial picture became more clear. Now, Richardson has presented a budget that allows for the county to move forward with lessons learned during the pandemic.
“This year we’ve been added to that theme the word resilient because this recommended budget is intended to make certain strategic investments to transform our organization as the community around us transforms,” Richardson said.
One of those investments is the creation of an Office of Broadband Access, intended to move Albemarle towards universal internet coverage.
“The office will have two recommended [full-time equivalents] that will report through the County Executive’s work to support the work of expanding access in urban and rural communities,” Richardson said. “Two very different approaches and needs. The full force of this organization will support this office which will work to tackle broadband using the equity lens.”
The budget does not anticipate an increase in the property tax rate, which will remain at $0.854 cents per $100 of assessed value. Residential assessments are up by 2.8 percent though commercial assessments are down 5.5 percent.
Richardson’s budget includes a move toward a $15 an hour minimum wage for county employees as well as a two percent “market adjustment.”
Here are some highlights from the budget:
- An expansion of Mountain View Elementary will proceed
- Five new firefighters will be hired to support daytime service at North Garden Volunteer Fire Company, plus a new training position and a new ambulance
- $3 million in funding for “Business Process Optimization” program to update land use permitting process and other government systems
- $600,000 in funding for affordable housing, to be determined (in FY21)
- $600,000 in funding to implement Climate Action Plan, to be determined (in FY21)
- $25 million to fund the already-approved renovation of Albemarle courts in downtown Charlottesville
- Two additional positions in social services for “family preservation”
- Budget is based on creation of a local tax on cigarettes that would go in effect Jan 1, 2022
Near the end of his presentation, Richardson sounded an optimistic tone.
“Board, we believe that during the course of FY22, our economy will continue to stabilize,” Richardson said. “We’ll know a lot more about our economy, our customer service expectations and what the public needs and expects, and the way we work.”
Supervisors did not have many specific questions during the presentation, but Samuel Miller District representative Liz Palmer said she supported the investments in public safety at North Garden.
“The North Garden Volunteer Fire Department is a wonderful building that’s been kept up by the community for many years,” Palmer said. “It is a prime location for an ambulance because there are so many accidents on 29 South down there.”
The first public hearing will be held virtually on March 3 at 6 p.m. Work sessions begin on March 10 and continue throughout the month. Stay tuned to the Week Ahead newsletter to learn when.