In their final action at their meeting on October 17, 2022, Charlottesville City Council held first reading on an item to spend $20,000 to purchase reusable bags for those on federal or state benefits. The 2020 General Assembly authorized localities in Virginia to authorize a 5 cent tax on plastic bags.
“We along with Albemarle County will be launching that January 1,” said Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders. “We continue to work closely with the county to make sure that our efforts are in alignment with theirs because our residents move back and forth between the city and the county, we want to ensure that there’s no real concern in regards to understanding what’s different whatever we may be doing so our goal is to try to do it in conjunction with another.”
First, Council was asked to appropriate $565,000 from the city’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP). That’s part of a larger pot that Councilor Michael Payne alluded to earlier.
“There’s currently about $2.3 million of unallocated ARP money,” said Chris Cullinan, the city’s finance director.
There are 168 days until Charlottesville City Council will vote on a budget for fiscal year 2024, which begins on July 1, 2023 Between now and then a lot of things will happen, including discussions of a capital improvement program, final direction on the expansions and renovations at Buford Middle School, and a fresh round of real property assessments for over 15,000 parcels in Charlottesville.
Soon after Council adopted the FY23 budget and the first real property tax rate increase in at least 30 years, the five members expressed a desire to get involved with the process earlier in the year. That’s why a budget work session was held on October 17. (work session materials)
“We paid attention to that in the schedule this year and this is the first effort for us to lay out for you what the budget process will be and to discuss some of the challenges and opportunities that we will have in FY24,” said Michael C. Rogers, the interim city manager.
It has been nearly 12 years since the Commonwealth of Virginia purchased nearly 800 acres in Albemarle County’s growth area for the purposes of creating a state park. The land had been slated for the Biscuit Run mixed-use development, but the previous developer found a buyer in then-Governor Tim Kaine.
It has been nearly five years since the Commonwealth of Virginia entered into a ground lease with Albemarle for the county to program the 1,200 acre park, an agreement signed by then Governor Terry McAuliffe in January 2018.
McAuliffe had requested a $42 million bond package during the 2016 General Assembly but that did not make it through to passage. That would have paid for at least some of a master plan to program the park.
There are 79 days until the General Assembly convenes for the 2023 session for the second year with Glenn Youngkin in the Governor’s Mansion. Last week, Albemarle Supervisors finalized their list of legislative priorities that they hope to convince legislators to turn into a bill. (2023 Legislative Priorities) (2023 Legislative Positions and Policy Statements)
Supervisors last discussed the list in September and extensively discussed a request to expand the number of virtual meetings an appointed body can have.
Another of the priorities is to request the ability for counties to decide for themselves if they want to hold a referendum on additional sales tax to generate revenue for school construction projects.
“There are currently nine counties and one city in the Commonwealth which enjoy this authority to levy an additional one-percent sales tax which is used exclusively to fund school division capital projects,” said county attorney Steven Rosenberg.
Later this week, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department will hold an information meeting on removing some of the trees on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. Riann Anthony is the deputy director of the department.
“We are very lucky that the Downtown Mall trees have been in existence for this long,” Anthony said. “Some of them are healthy and others are not healthy but per our urban forester is that all of the trees are stressed from a number of factors.”
This is definitely a much slower month, anecdotally speaking. At some point, I am hoping something will click and I’ll be able to present the data in ways that can more clearly show trends. But that’s not the point of this monthly newsletter on property transactions in the city of Charlottesville.
The point is for me as a person who lives here and a longtime journalist to go through and know who is purchasing what properties. I only identify purchasers or sellers if they are corporate entities. I am not trying to point out patterns. I just find this to be a useful exercise that helps me better understand the city where I live and a beat for which people pay me to cover.
The Jefferson School Center for African American Heritage has asked the city to help it cover the cost of the rent it pays to the Jefferson School Foundation. That’s the entity that owns the former elementary school. The Center leases just over 11,000 square feet at a cost of $15,134.76 per month.
Staff has recommended Council donate seven months of rent to cover the Center from December 1 through the end of next June for a total of $107,203.32.
“The reason for taking this action at this moment is to provide Council the space that it needs to conduct its strategic planning sessions to determine how it will engage in investments for moments like this to invest in arrangements with non-profit organizations,” said Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders.
In the near future, Charlottesville could very well finalize plans to renovate Buford Middle School to accommodate sixth grade students, a first step toward a long-planned and long-awaited reconfiguration of the city’s schools.
The School Board got an update on construction estimates in September, and the final number will factor heavily into the city’s budget discussions for the next fiscal year. (VMDO working against inflation as design for Buford expansion continues and estimates increase, September 2, 2022)
On Monday, Council approved guidelines for the use of funds that could be raised through something called the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act, which goes by the acronym PPEA.
Charlottesville has many tools in the effort to ensure some residential units in the city that are below-market. Two of them date back to 2007.
One is the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund, which has disbursed $46.7 million in funds since 2010 according to a report Council was briefed on this past April. (Deputy City Manager Sanders reviews recent audit of Charlottesville’s housing fund, April 6, 2022)
The other is a 2007 loan to the Piedmont Housing Alliance to assist Woodard Properties in acquiring Dogwood Housing.
“In 2007, Council at that time extended a loan in the amount of $850,000 for the acquisition of 57 residential units to be maintained as rental properties,” said Sam Sanders, the Deputy City Manager.