Albemarle Supervisors review $368.25 million operational budget
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will not vote to adopt a budget for fiscal year 2023 until May 4, 2022, but between now and then there will be many work sessions in which the six elected officials will give a thorough review.
On Wednesday, March 9, they got straight to work with a three-hour session in which they went through the operational budget, which is based on anticipated revenues of $368.25 million.
Forty-five percent is transferred to Albemarle County Public Schools. The next largest expenditure is for public safety at fourteen percent, followed by a 10 percent that goes to the capital fund mostly for debt service.
But how is all that money proposed to be spent?
Andy Bowman is the Chief of the Office of Management and Budget. He went department by department to explain various aspects of the budget. One of the overarching themes is a need for workforce stabilization. Bowman said that seven percent of the county’s positions are currently unfilled.
“We have included $2.8 million to fund a four percent salary increase that will be effective July 1 for our employees,” Bowman said.
There’s another $500,000 for a study of how the county’s salaries compare to others, as well as another $1 million to implement that study.
“The intent of this funding at this time is not to say specifically what will happen, but position the Board and the organization to move forward whenever that right time will be,” Bowman said. “The county does have need for a plan to evaluate its compensation.”
Supervisor Ned Gallaway said he feels the county needs to attend to the issue, citing that seven percent figure again.
“I mean 18 to 36 positions above usual turnover, and then we haven’t talked about retaining staff which the comp study is all about, frankly,” Gallaway said.
Mia Coltrane became the new director of Human Resources for Albemarle in September, and she agreed the compensation study is intended to keep people working for the county
“That’s one of the tasks of really getting a good pulse of every department and where the energy needs to be focused,” Coltrane said. “We know public safety is one but as we’ve mentioned, it’s not just public safety. We’re seeing it across the board, even with [human resources].”
The budget also anticipates the hiring of two temporary positions to help with community engagement on the Comprehensive Plan that is currently under review. Emily Kilroy is the Director of Communications and Public Engagement.
‘The staff that are working on the Comprehensive Plan, which is estimated to be about a three-year endeavor, are the same team that currently supports the seven community advisory committees,” Kilroy said. “In order for them to focus on the work of the Comprehensive Plan there was an identified need to look at staffing those differently. So the thought was let’s bring in temporary positions sort of in alignment with the timeline for the Comprehensive Plan onboard to support the needs of those communities.”
Another position will be based out of the Yancey Community Center in the southern portion of Albemarle.
The recommended fiscal year 2023 budget continues a trend toward greater county spending on fire and rescue services. The FY21 actual budget saw $15.73 million spent in this category and that has increased to around $21.6 million in FY23. One reason for the increase this year is the addition of around the clock fire and rescue service operating out of the Pantops public safety station.
“That is to further support and strengthen the fire rescue service there in the county’s development area,” said Andy Bowman, the chief of the Office of Management and Budget for Albemarle. “In the long term, this will also reduce our reliance on the city of Charlottesville for calls east of the city.”
Albemarle is expected to pay Charlottesville around $240,000 for FY23, but Bowman said the contract between the two jurisdictions will soon be renegotiated.
There’s another $100,000 in the budget to reimburse volunteer medics and firefighters for fuel used in the call of duty.
“Volunteerism has been a special challenge of late and it’s not anticipated to get any better so something that will help show our volunteers the support we have for them is greatly appreciated,” said Supervisor Price.
The budget also covers the cost to establish a Community Response Team to respond to public safety calls with people trained to deal with people in mental health crises.
“This is an effort led by the Department of Social Services with a police officer, a firefighter/EMT, and a social worker working to respond to calls to individuals in crisis and depending on the details of the call, the team would adapt their response to best meet the critical needs of the person to ensure the safety of all parties involved,” Bowman said.
A portion of the funding comes from the cigarette tax that has begun to be collected in Albemarle.
Supervisor Diantha McKeel said the Community Response Team is a step in the right direction.
“I am looking forward to an upcoming discussion among staff and the supervisors about how that team could be used to assist in our panhandling issues, many of who might fall into this category,” McKeel said.
The recommended budget provides $275,000 in a reserve fund for a pilot project to run microtransit service on Pantops and U.S. 29 North.
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