Public weighs in on real estate tax rate, personal property tax rate, and the FY23 budget

Earlier this year, Council met its legal obligations to advertise in a newspaper of record a potential tax rate for the current calendar year.

“You authorized us to go up to ten cents which would present $9.2 million in revenue,” said interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers said. 

Rogers’ recommended budget did not anticipate spending any of that funding, but left it unallocated pending Council’s discussion about whether they want to entertain a property tax rate. Rogers is recommending a two cent increase this year for the school project. 

Council also advertised keeping the personal property tax rate at $4.20 per $100 of assessed value, though Commissioner of Revenue Todd Divers said a sharp increase in the value of used vehicles will increase bills. He told Council what the equalized rate would be. 

“You’re looking at a rate of probably around $3.22,” Divers said. “If don’t do anything, you’re probably going to see an additional $2 million.” 

Elizabeth Stark, the co-chair of the Charlottesville Democratic Socialists of America, called for the full increase of ten cents to support collective bargaining, $10 million a year for affordable housing, and other priorities. 

“I ask that the city use all levers in their power to generate income,” Stark said. “Though all tax options are regressive, an increase to the property tax coupled with tax relief for low-wealth neighbors and an increase to the lodging tax seems to be the solution to me.”

However, Jamie Fitzgerald said a full increase of ten cents will hurt his ability to remain as a renter in Charlottesville.

“I rent from an owner that does not live in Charlottesville,” Fitzgerald said. “The owner performs zero maintenance on this house and the house is rapidly deteriorating.”

Fitzgerald predicted his rent would be increased to cover the cost, which would force him to vacate. 

“I’m sure I’m not the only renter in Charlottesville facing this issue,” Fitzgerald said. 

Chris Meyer encouraged Council to raise the property tax rate because he said Charlottesville is undertaxed. 

“We need to get moving,” Meyer said. “I appreciate the city manager’s suggestion on at least a two cent raise,” Meyer said. “I would look at potentially more.” 

After the tax rate public hearing, the public comment period was opened on the budget. No one spoke directly about what to do with the personal property tax rate.

Brad Slocum no longer lives in Charlottesville and now commutes in from Staunton. He urged Council to increase funding for Charlottesville Area Transit in order to help the city meet its climate goals.

“One of the best ways to do this is to ensure director of transit, Garland Williams, has the budget he and his staff need to expand the city’s bus fleet to achieve 15-minute fixed route service,” Williams said. 

Brian Campbell of the Charlottesville Democratic Socialists of America called on Council to make further cuts to the police budget and to require transparency.

“Charlottesville spends $19 million annually on police,” Campbell said. “Lynchburg, a city nearly twice as big and with more officers also spends $19 million on police. On a per capita basis, Charlottesville spends more on police than Albemarle, Waynesboro, Staunton, Roanoke, Harrisonburg, Blacksburg, and Lynchburg as previously noted. Why do Charlottesville police spend so much more than their peers? No one knows.” 

Katie Yared, a fourth year student at the University of Virginia, called on Council to enact a plastic bag tax for FY23. 

“As I’m sure you know, the Albemarle County budget proposes that they will implement a tax on plastic bags by January 1, 2023, with a projected revenue of $20,000,” Yared  said. “Following the lead of Albemarle County, the city of Charlottesville has an opportunity to significantly reduce plastic waste and to incentivize the use of reusable bags.” 

Members of the Tree Commission sought additional funding in two areas.

“First, we proposed planting 200 trees per year so that we can plant more trees than are being removed,” said Mark Rylander. 

That would take an allocation of $100,000 but the City Manager’s budget only includes $75,000. Rylander said the Tree Commission would like another $105,000 a year to address the destruction of ash trees by the Emerald Ash Borer. 

Funding for outside agencies is recommended through the Vibrant Communites report (download the report for FY23)

Several speakers asked for additional funding for the Public Housing Association of Residents including its executive director, Shelby Edwards. The current level of funding for FY22 is $41,000 but the Vibrant Community process for determining funding for outside agencies only recommended $21,035 for FY23. 

“Please fund PHAR especially our PHAR internship problem, and also our development-led redevelopment efforts,” Edwards said. 

The capital budget anticipates spending $3 million in bond-raised funds on public  housing redevelopment for each of the next four years.

There’s a Community Budget Forum scheduled for tonight night at 6 p.m. The meals tax rate will be on the agenda for Council’s next regularly scheduled meeting on April 4. 

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 March 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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