As the calendar year concludes, localities in Virginia are just about to enter the third quarter of their fiscal year. Earlier this month, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors got an update on how the county’s finances look as the start of budget season approaches.
First, they got an update on the county’s assessments for 2022, which were made available a month earlier than usual. Peter Lynch is Albemare’s assessor.
“Because of the mail issues that we’ve had, I wanted to mail the ordinances earlier so we have a target date of January 14 to mail the notices this year,” Lynch said.
Lynch said an unreliable mail system resulted in the land use revalidation process being difficult this year. There are 4,052 parcels that receive a lower tax rate due to some agricultural or open space use.
Sales made after Lynch’s December 15 presentation are still factor into the official assessment which by law is made on January 1.
“Any information up to that date that happens in the market can be used to contest the assessment,” Lynch said.
Lynch said this year has seen the highest number of sales in Albemarle so far, with 2,311 sales recorded as of the date of his presentation. He said there would be at least another hundred before the end of the year.
As of December 15, Albemarle is on track to have the highest average increase in property assessments at 8.32 percent. Within the county, the Scottsville Magisterial District saw the largest increase with 11.14 percent, and the lowest is in the Rivanna district with 7.17 percent.
The assessment of properties with apartments increased by 11.8 percent, whereas commercial properties are flat. Hotel properties declined 22.9 percent in 2021, but recovered by just under a percentage point this year.
“Shopping centers also went down a lot and they recovered some of what they lost,” Lynch said.
Offices declined for a second year in a row with a 4.15 percent average decrease in worth.
“People stopped going to their offices but they kept paying their rent,” Lynch said. “At this point those leases are turning over for lower amounts, lower rents, and we’re starting to see more effect on those offices.”
Assessments are directly tied to next year’s budget and the amount of revenue that will be generated through the property tax. After Lynch’s presentation, supervisors had a work session on the five-year financial plan. Albemarle had $13.2 million in leftover funds from fiscal year 2021.
Here’s how staff is recommending using that money:
- $4.1 million transfer to the Capital Improvements Plan
- $5 million to Albemarle’s Economic Development Fund to help attract new businesses through the Project Enable plan
- $3.1 million for the Albemarle Housing Fund, bringing the balance to $5 million
- $1 million for workforce stabilization
Supervisor Diantha McKeel said she wanted some of the capital funding to go toward building more urban parks. Supervisor Donna Price agreed, and said she would like to see county investment in the Rivanna Trail.
“I’d really love to see the trail around Charlottesville and Albemarle, the Rivanna river trail, because that provides relatively easy access to almost everyone in our urban ring and that really would improve the quality of life,” Price said.
Based on the surplus and the assessments, staff is not anticipating any increase in the real estate property tax rate for the year. Staff asked Supervisors if they had any interest in increasing transient occupancy or the meals taxes and if they wanted to explore tax relief programs. Part of that is due to a trend towards property taxes making up a larger percentage of the budget.
“It’s going from sixty percent back in FY07 coming closer to seventy percent in FY22 and FY23,” Birch said. “We need to try and diversity as best we can away from real estate taxes.”
Planning staff will incorporate a plastic bag tax into the FY23 budget. Albemarle can increase the meals tax rate to six percent and can increase the transient occupancy tax if it chooses. One supervisor wants the county’s rates to be the same as the city’s.
“I think anything that we do to match Charlottesville is appropriate,” said Supervisor Diantha McKeel. “If the sales tax in Charlottesville is something, it should be the same in Albemarle.”
Supervisors took no formal actions and the budget will come back before the Board in the February.
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