Albemarle holds first public hearing for $565M budget
The first of several opportunities for the public and elected officials to mark up Albemarle’s next budget got underway with a handful of people taking advantage of the first public hearing.
The total budget is $565.1 million, and that’s made up of several different components including the general fund, the school fund, the school special revenue fund, the special revenue fund, the capital improvement fund, and the debt service fund.
“These funds can be highly variable year to year,” Richardson said. “As an example, the FY23 recommended budget includes the influx of $12 million in remaining one-time funding through the American Rescue Plan Act. Additionally the nature of capital projects and their related borrowing will vary year to year based on the timing of projects beginning.”
This next year’s budget includes funding for High School Center 2 as well as the final phases of the construction of a new General District Court in downtown Charlottesville that would serve both communities. Richardson said for those wanting to make a year-to-year comparison of budgets, the general fund is where to look.
“It’s where all tax revenue is received and its the primary ongoing funding source for the school fund, the capital fund, the debt program,” Richardson said. “It also doesn’t involve pass-through grants that may vary from year to year.”
The general fund is built on maintaining the same property tax rate of 85.4 cents per $100 of assessed, but an increase in the rate for the food and beverage tax and the transient occupancy tax. There is funding from the new cigarette tax and proposed revenues from a plastic bag tax.
There is also a proposed 86 cent drop in the personal property tax rate due to a spike in used car values in the past year.
The public hearing was the first chance for professional groups and community members alike to influence the budget.
A representative from an environmental group supported additional funds for Biscuit Run and for the transportation-leverage program, but lamented that the capital budget anticipates no new funds for a program where Albemarle funds the acquisition of conservation easements.
“As you all know, our land and water resources are vital for the future of our region and are a critical component of what makes Albemarle County a special place to live,” said Rex Linville of the Piedmont Environmental Council. “In fact, the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan acknowledges this and specifically calls for the county to ‘strengthen the Acquisition of Conservation Easements ACE Program by providing a stable, dedicated funding source and staff resources for administering the program.”
Later in the meeting, Supervisor Ned Gallaway said that the program is under review at this time and that is not being zeroed out.
“We’ll do a proper evaluation and Mr. Richardson, I presume if we wanted to put funds into the
ACE program, even though its zeroed out now because of the pause, that we would have plenty of reserve options to go if we had projects to fund,” Gallaway said.
Several people want the county to restore $2.9 million in funds to install lights and artificial turf for athletic fields at Darden-Towe Park, which is owned by both Albemarle County and Charlottesville. That was anticipated in the FY2020 budget but has not proceeded.
“Quite frankly, I am very disappointed that this extremely important community project has been pushed to the wayside,” said Robyn Mattern.
The project was paused in the FY21 budget due to the pandemic and was not recommended to be resumed. Charlottesville would also need to provide a portion of funding in their capital fund.
Mike Ginsberg also spoke to the issue and he argued for more athletic facilities for youth sports at Darden Towe Park.
“In my time coaching child soccer in Charlottesville for the past 20 years, I have seen hundreds of multisport turf complexes across America and Europe,” Ginsberg said. “Every sports complex mirrors one another in that they all have numerous turf fields lined for various sports like soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, football.” .
The FY23 budget anticipates $3 million in spending at Biscuit Run Park in FY23 and $5.3 million in FY24, and that will include new athletic fields.
The executive director of Live Arts appeared before Supervisors to thank them for the recommendation of $5,000 in funding next year.
“I just wanted to let you know the focus of this grant is rebuilding our 1,200 person volunteer corps after it was decimated during the pandemic,” said Anne Hunter.
Hunter was the last speaker at the public hearing.
After that, Supervisors had the chance to provide direction in advance of next Wednesday’s budget work session. At one of those events, there will be a discussion about the future of athletic fields in Albemarle and whether Supervisors want to unpause the project.
“We are planning to present to the board at the March 23 work session,” said Assistant County Executive Trevor Henry. “It’s not just a turf field discussion. It’s also going to be a discussion led by Parks and Recreation on overall field needs. We will talk a little about the history of the Darden Towe turf project and the current CIP request for four natural grass fields at Biscuit Run Park.
Darden Towe Park is within the Rivanna Magisterial District represented by Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley. She said she looked forward to the work session.
“Because I do feel that we need to have a really good sports venue here in Albemarle County,” LaPisto-Kirtley said. “Biscuit Run, I think, is the optimum place to have that. I’m just going to put that out there already.”
Supervisor Chair Donna Price said she also wanted a sports plex within Albemarle and looked forward to the discussion.
“I also continue to have questions as do many of our community members based upon various opinions that have been shared with us about the advisability of artificial turf versus natural grass because there are advantages and disadvantages of each,” Price said.
The first work session begins at 3 p.m. on March 9. (meeting info)
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