More details from the recommended Charlottesville City Budget

For a reporter who has covered more than a dozen budget cycles, it’s a bit jarring to have to look at material in a new way. But, the world changes and so has the way the Charlottesville budget is available for review as the city’s budget process really gets underway.

The budget is now available online as part of an interactive website. There’s a lot more detail available, and all of it can change as the Council goes through their review beginning with tonight’s work session. 

Time unfortunately doesn’t allow me to go through all of the budget, but here is at least some of what’s in the new document. 

All of the familiar elements of a budget document are here in this form. That includes the budget message from interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. 

“The adopted General Fund revenue and expenditure estimates both total $226,239,155, which represents a 6.27% increase from the FY 2023 Budget and is balanced,” Rogers writes. (link to his message)

The basic 101 about how budgeting works is also in the new interactive document. There are those who would tell you this stuff is boring and not worth paying attention to, but more people should know some of these items. If you don’t know any of the terms, ask me. 

“All budgets are presented on the modified accrual basis of accounting, under which revenues and related assets are recorded when measurable and available to finance operations during the year, and expenditures, other than compensated absences and interest on debt, are recorded as the related fund liabilities are incurred,” reads the ‘Basis of Budgeting’ section.  “Revenues considered prone to accrual consist primarily of property taxes, certain grants, and sales and utility taxes.  Any property taxes that are not due as of June 30th are recorded as deferred revenues.”

While this may be dense, the information is all there waiting for anyone to learn. 

This section also explains the fund structure for Charlottesville, which consists of the general fund for operating expenditures, enterprise funds for specific functions such as city utilities, the capital improvement program fund, and other miscellaneous funds. 

The city’s budget staff build the document based on a set of guidelines. All of this is in the Basis of Budgeting section of the online budget

One thing about the new budget explorer is that you can see how much each particular division will receive and has received historically. For instance, there are now 46 full-time-equivalents in the City Manager’s office. 

Some highlights from that office:

  • The budget for the Human Rights Commission will increase 72.61 percent to $487,553 to cover two additional full-time positions. 
  • The budget for the Police Civilian Review Board will increase 31.92 percent to $478,450 in part to cover a management analyst position. 
  • The Office of Equity and Inclusion will increase 28.14 percent to $1.191 million. This is in part to cover the costs of the new positions of homeless coordinator and a REDI coordinator.  
  • A new office of Emergency Management is now within the city Manager’s office. There are two new people there.
  • The new budget explorer is quite detailed. For instance, the budget in the office of the City Manager for advertising increased $10,000 to $20,000. 

There aren’t always answers in the budget, and I will listen out for as I go through the various work sessions. For now, I do have these questions on transit I will ask publicly in the hopes someone else will notice:

The budget for Charlottesville Area Transit operations increases from just over $11 million to nearly $14.3 million, a 29.58 percent increase. This includes $2.29 million for a “JAUNT pass-thru.”  What’s the explanation for the increase? Why is $250,000 under “UVA Misc Revenue” not included for FY24? 

More on the budget as we go through. 

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 9, 2023 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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