Richardson presents $565M “Transform Albemarle” budget to Supervisors

A strong projection of revenues in Albemarle has led County Executive Jeffrey Richardon to present the Board of Supervisors with a budget for fiscal year 2023 that is twenty percent higher than the existing year. (download the budget)

“This fiscal year’s recommended budget is built to transform Albemarle,” Richardson said. 

The property tax rate will remain at 85.4 cents per $100 assessed value. Property assessments in Albemarle are up an average of 8.4 percent in 2022. Sales tax, food and beverage tax, and transient occupancy taxes are up 17.1 percent from FY21.

However, Richardson said not all signs are positive. 

“We are mindful that those indicators don’t highlight some of the challenges in the local economy,” Richardson said. “The prices that consumers are paying have risen, they’ve risen by 7.5 percent when comparing January 2022 to January 2021. Gas prices are up nearly 40 percent from where they were a year ago. Participants in the SNAP Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program remain higher than in pre pandemic 2019.” 

A snapshot of the revenue projections for FY23 is on page 36 of the budget (download)

Richardson said he has had direction from Supervisors to reduce the amount of the county’s budget that is based on the property tax. In fiscal year 2007, sixty percent of Albemarle’s revenue came from that source, but that has increased to 68.5 percent in the current year’s budget.

The budget is built on an increase in the food and beverage tax from two percent to six percent, and an increase in the transient lodging tax from three percent to eight percent. That would match the same rates in Charlottesville. 

“Thousands of people visit our community for vacations, sporting events, weddings, and to visit our natural and historic resources,” Richardson said. “We are also a regional hub for commercial activity. Increasing our taxes in these two areas means we can begin to shift revenues away from the people who live here and spread it out more broadly to those who are visiting our community.”

The budget also anticipates lowering the personal property tax rate by 86 cents due to a sharp increase in the valuation of used vehicles.

“We’ve been given the authority for a local cigarette tax which went into effect in January,” Richardson said. “A plastic bag tax which we will be exploring in the coming months. 

Richardson highlighted several areas of new spending in the budget. 

A Community Response Team will be created to respond to “individuals in crisis with a cross-functional team” consisting of social workers, police, and firefighters. The funding source is the cigarette tax authorized by the General Assembly in recent years. 

“Depending on the details of the call, this team will adapt their response to best meet the critical needs of the person, ensuring the safety of all parties involved,” Richardson said. “This program responds to a troubling growth in mental health call services that have unique needs.” 

The capital budget for fiscal year 2023 anticipates spending the highest one-year amount in county history. In fiscal year 2006, the figure was $23 million and the Albemarle population was around 91,400. Now the population is estimated at 114,424 and the recommended capital budget for next year represents a need to catch up.

“For fiscal year ‘23 the recommended capital budget is approximately $93 million and I would like to note that in 2010 and in 2011 these years were impacted by the Great Recession and in 2021 by the pause in the capital program due to the pandemic,” Richardson said.

A fire engine at Pantops Station 16 will be operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

“Seven days a week to further support the strength of the fire rescue system and to reduce reliance on Charlottesville Fire for calls east of the City,” Richardson said 

The capital budget also has funding to increase space to address increasing enrollments in Albemarle public schools.

“The budget recommendations will over the next five years advance three new public school projects to address capacity needs within our school system,” Richardson said. “Two elementary schools. One in the northern feeder pattern and one from the south, and a second high school center.”

Biscuit Run Park will be opened with five miles of trails and athletic fields.

“This is a 1,200 acre natural park within the county’s development area and it will provide a park experience unlike any of our other parks, combining the natural features of our rural parks with athletic amenities that you’d expect in an urban park,” Richardson said. 

In recent years, Albemarle has been putting money into a line item to match other sources of funding. 

“This budget recommends continued investments in our transportation leveraging program which provides local funding to draw down state funding for road and bike and pedestrian improvements,” Richardson said. 

Some of the American Rescue Plan Act funding will be used to pay for the cost of some urban Albemarle properties to be connected to the sewer system.

“There is a connection cost that can be out of reach for many homeowners,” Richardson said. “The proposed program will provide fiscal support to low-income households in making that shift as the age of these homes and the infrastructure attached to them is reaching a tipping point where the failure of a septic system in the urban area presents a real environmental health hazard.” 

Other aspects of the budget: 

  • There’s a four percent market adjustment for staff
  • The county will pick up funding of the Yancey Community Center once a grant from the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation expires. 
  • The county will fund a microtransit project on Pantops and the Places-29 area
  • Work to implement the Housing Albemarle plan will be paid for through a combination of the budget surplus

The public hearing on Richardson’s recommended budget will be held virtually on March 2. Work sessions will be held throughout that month before a public hearing on the tax rate on April 27 and the version of the budget marked up by Supervisors. Approval is set for May 9. 

Supervisors had a few comments in advance of the public hearing next week. Several expressed concern that action in this year’s General Assembly may affect the budget. 

It will be the first budget for new Supervisor Jim Andrews (Samuel Miller). 

“A lot of times I’ve always been advised that when you try to figure out what’s a priority in any organization it’s not to ask what they’re doing but what they’re not doing,” Andrews said. 

Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) has been through over a dozen budget cycles so far, including during the Great Recession when the capital budget was slashed. 

“That reduction of $100 million in new projects three and four years in a row is why we have the backlog that we have,” Mallek said. “We are making a valiant effort at catch-up with available one-time money that is a once-in-a-lifetime generational thing to have at hand.”

Supervisor Donna Price (Scottsville) praised staff for reducing the personal property tax.

“We talk about using equity and inclusion in our decisions and your proposal here to reduce the personal property tax provides an across the county truly equitable calculation of relief for our community members,” Price said. “We do have so many people who are in tenancies and almost everyone has to rely on their vehicle for transportation because of the nature of our county being so rural in so many areas.” 

More to come in the very near future. 

The budget calendar for this year’s cycle 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the February 23, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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