Category Archives: Budget – Albemarle

an update on transportation projects in albemarle county

(This segment originally appeared in the May 29, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

At the height of the Great Recession earlier this century, Albemarle County froze many positions and slowed contributions to its capital improvement program. One job that was not filled for many years was transportation planning, but for the past few years, Albemarle has put together an organized list of potential projects to address road capacity issues as well as bike and pedestrian connections.

In July 2019, they adopted a priority list ranging from Hydraulic/29 Improvements at #1 to U.S. 250 West / Gillums Ridge Road Intersection Improvements at #89. 

“That list provided all capital transportation projects that are recommended through the various county planning processes,” said Kevin McDermott , a chief of planning in Albemarle, in a May 19 to the Board of Supervisors. (review the update)

The list is intended to help planners identify funding sources for projects, such as the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale program as well as the county’s own capital improvement program.  

“We have gotten 12 projects from that 2019 project list funded,” McDermott said. 

  • Hydraulic 29 / Improvements, including a pedestrian bridge over U.S. 29 and a roundabout at Hillsdale and Hydraulic, are slated to be funded at $24 million by Commonwealth Transportation Board in June (#1)
  • U.S. Route 250 improvements to add median between Route 20 and Rolkin Road to receive $6 million in Smart Scale funding using $2 million in local funds (#2)
  • Route 20 / U.S. 250 intersection will be rebuilt using funding from 2018 Smart Scale round sometime in 2024 (#3)
  • Berkmar Drive will be extended further north to Lewis and Clark Drive, providing a continuous roadway to UVA North Fork Research Park. Funding came from VDOT’s revenue sharing program.
  • Further changes to Fontaine Avenue / U.S. 29 intersection including a shared-use path (#6)
  • A roundabout will be built at Old Lynchburg Road and 5th Street Extended with $5 million in VDOT funds and $2 million in Albemarle funds (#7)
  • A roundabout at Rio Road and the John Warner Parkway is recommended for $8 million funding in the current Smart Scale process and $2 million in Albemarle funds will be used (#15)
  • Bike and pedestrian improvements will be made on Old Lynchburg Road using Albemarle funds (#26)
  • A section of the Northtown Trail shared-use path will be built between Seminole Lane North and Carrsbrook Drive at a cost of $4 million (#35)
  • A greenway trail on Moores Creek and a trail hub at 5th Street Station will receive Smart Scale funds and has a total cost of $10 million (#40)
  • A park and ride lot will be constructed near Exit 107 and Crozet Park to serve Jaunt and the future Afton Express at a cost of $3 million (#82)This map depicts location of projects that have received funding since 2019 (Credit: Albemarle County)

McDermott’s purpose for appearing before the supervisors was to get their preliminary support for the next round of transportation projects. At the top of a short list for this year’s cycle of VDOT revenue-sharing funds is the completion Eastern Avenue, a north-south roadway designed to increase connectivity and traffic circulation throughout Crozet. 

“That project is currently being evaluated through an alignment study and conceptual design which the county has funded through our transportation leveraging project,” McDermott said. “We have just recently received the updated cost estimates from that consultant we have hired and their preliminary cost estimates are now at $19,983,000.” 

That would require at least a $10 million match from county funds. However, if approved the state funding would not be available until 2027. 

Another project on the list for potential revenue-sharing projects is one to build bike and pedestrian improvements on Mill Creek Drive to Peregory Lane, a top priority in a recent corridor study. That has a cost estimate of $2 million. 

Applications  for revenue-sharing projects are due this year.  Next year Smart Scale projects will be due. Potential applications to be made next year include a roundabout at District Avenue and Hydraulic Road, a realignment of Hillsdale Drive, and a roundabout at the intersection of Belvedere Boulevard and Rio Road. 

There’s plenty of time to get involved with these applications. Keep reading and stay tuned.

Albemarle Supervisors begin detailed review of $466 million budget

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors have begun their detailed review of the recommended $466 million budget for fiscal year 2022. The season has been slightly extended this year with adoption scheduled for May 5 after a series of work sessions. On Wednesday, the Board began with a look at the operating budget and began recommending potential things to add or to cut. Andy Bowman is the chief of budget. 

“Fiscal year 22 is really going to be a transitional budget,” Bowman said. “Our economy is stabilizing but it has not stabilized. Our community is adapting as our circumstances change and people are impacted by the pandemic in very different ways.” 

Budget schedule for FY22

On Monday, they’ll talk about the school budget and next Thursday they’ll talk about public safety. At the Thursday meeting, they will also set a maximum tax rate for advertisement if they decide to increase from the current $0.854 per $100 of assessed value. County Executive Jeff Richardson’s recommended budget proposes no increase. 

But on Wednesday, Bowman told the supervisors that the transitional budget is intended to prepare for a post-pandemic world. 

“So even this is a transitionary budget, we had to reflect in making recommendations on what are those things we can do to build a bridge now to make sure that we are an even more resilient  organization and community when we reach the other side of our future?” 

This year’s budget is 17 percent higher than the current fiscal year, and Bowman said a lot of that is due to a larger capital improvement plan. 

“The board may recall at the state of the Fiscal Year 21 budget, many capital projects have been put on hold and some of those have been restarted and that certainly plays into that as well,” Bowman said.  

Since Richardson unveiled his budget in late February, the General Assembly adopted a state budget. Bowman said staff are continuing to review how that might affect Albemarle’s budget, so there may still be adjustments based on new revenues. They’re also reviewing the American Rescue Plan to find out that affect the budget. 

“In my mind, I think of this as almost another round of the CARES coronavirus relief funds that were received in the last calendar year,” Bowman said. 

The recommended budget does not include any of those federal funds, and budget staff are checking to see what the rules for their usage will be. Virginia is expected to receive $6.8 billion for state and local aid from the ARP, according to the Associated Press.

The county is putting $3 million in one-time funds toward expanding broadband in Albemarle and by creating an Office of Broadband Access. Supervisors directed staff to go in that direction in a joint meeting with the Albemarle Broadband Authority on February 17. Trevor Henry is the assistant county executive.

“We all experienced the tsunami of internet need that occurred over the past year and really we have all been in that mode since a year ago,” Henry said. 

Henry said that even households that thought they had good access to broadband taxed their connections when almost every group event went online. 

“And so the work that has come since a year ago has only intensified the critical needs and we have a lot of opportunities in front of us now to do some meaningful work,” Henry said. “We have programs at the federal, state and local level.” 

Some of the work will be to pay for the “last mile” where clusters of structures are near a fiber line but their owners may not be able to afford to make the connection. Details of the program will come back to the board later this spring. But to make it work, staff will also need to be hired. 

“The addition of an operations person, an administrator, will help us set up purchase orders, taking care of all of the billing, taking citizen requests, responding, tracking that data,” Henry said. “Those kinds of metrics, making sure that the action items on all of the various meetings related to broadband get tracked and captured and we’re working to executive them.”

Albemarle will also work on an effort to help people pay for the service once.

Supervisors were all supportive of the recommendations to move forward. 

Both Louisa and Nelson have announced plans to move toward universal broadband through public-private partnerships with electric cooperatives. Earlier this month, the Louisa Board of Supervisors announced a $15 million investment. There’s a meeting today facilitated by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission to see how the model being used in Louisa and Nelson can be expanded to cover what’s known as the “middle mile.” Legislation to allow Dominion and Appalachian Power to expand their broadband efforts passed the General Assembly this year and awaits action by Governor Ralph Northam. (HB1923)

The work session also covered public safety. Supervisor Diantha McKeel observed that new legislation requires localities to change the way service calls related to mental health crises are handled. 

“I know there’s some discussion about creating a team between so the police don’t have to respond by themselves to many of our mental health calls,” McKeel said. “There’s nothing in the budget Andy right now around that initiative.”

Bowman confirmed that and suggested Police Chief Ron Lantz will be giving an update on that in the near future. 

Another new expense in the budget is the hiring of five people to staff the North Garden Volunteer Fire Company during the day with fire and rescue service by the fall of 2022. 

“Currently there are no county staff down there, they are entirely volunteer,” Bowman said. “We received a letter from them in the fall requesting supplemental staffing during the weekday daytime.

The budget also includes purchase of an ambulance for the North Garden department. Bowman said that over the past four budgets, the county has added 32 full-time equivalents to fire and rescue. Some of those positions have been supported by grants from the federal government and to increase coverage to meet the needs of a growing population. 

A more in-depth discussion of public safety budgetary issues will be held at the March 18 work session. On March 22, they will talk in detail about transit. Charlottesville Area Transit had requested $1.47 million but the draft budget only recommends a million. Albemarle would contribute $6,137 a year for the new Afton Express and $2.18 million for Jaunt. 

CAT provided an update on proposed route changes at the February 24 Regional Transit Partnership. 

“In fiscal year 21, there are two studies that are taking through the Regional Transit Partnership,” Bowman said. “One of those is a longer-term regional transit vision plan and the other one is funded in 21 looking at some Albemarle specific transit services and we’ll be looking to what comes from that report for FY23 and beyond.”  

Supervisors wanted more information on several things, including current response times for North Garden, the status of daytime staffing of the Earlysville Volunteer Fire Company, the and cost of operating the future Biscuit Run county park. 

Richardson recommends $466 million budget for FY22

(This post originally appeared in the February 25, 2021 installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

Albemarle County Executive Jeffrey Richardson unveiled a $466 million recommended operating budget for the Board of Supervisors to review over the several weeks.  (review the recommended FY22 budget)

“This year’s budget theme pulls forward the budget theme year from fiscal year 21 which was ‘Respond, Recover and Recalibrate’,” Richardson said.

Source: Albemarle County

That budget was altered on the fly as the economy was shut down to in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Positions were frozen and both operating and capital expenditures were cut back while the financial picture became more clear. Now, Richardson has presented a budget that allows for the county to move forward with lessons learned during the pandemic.

“This year we’ve been added to that theme the word resilient because this recommended budget is intended to make certain strategic investments to transform our organization as the community around us transforms,” Richardson said. 

One of those investments is the creation of an Office of Broadband Access, intended to move Albemarle towards universal internet coverage.

“The office will have two recommended [full-time equivalents] that will report through the County Executive’s work to support the work of expanding access in urban and rural communities,” Richardson said. “Two very different approaches and needs. The full force of this organization will support this office which will work to tackle broadband using the equity lens.”

The budget does not anticipate an increase in the property tax rate, which will remain at $0.854 cents per $100 of assessed value. Residential assessments are up by 2.8 percent though commercial assessments are down 5.5 percent. 

Richardson’s budget includes a move toward a $15 an hour minimum wage for county employees as well as a two percent “market adjustment.” 

Here are some highlights from the budget:

  • An expansion of Mountain View Elementary will proceed
  • Five new firefighters will be hired to support daytime service at North Garden Volunteer Fire Company, plus a new training position and a new ambulance
  • $3 million in funding for “Business Process Optimization” program to update land use permitting process and other government systems
  • $600,000 in funding for affordable housing, to be determined (in FY21)
  • $600,000 in funding to implement Climate Action Plan, to be determined (in FY21)
  • $25 million to fund the already-approved renovation of Albemarle courts in downtown Charlottesville
  • Two additional positions in social services for “family preservation”
  • Budget is based on creation of a local tax on cigarettes that would go in effect Jan 1, 2022

Near the end of his presentation, Richardson sounded an optimistic tone.

“Board, we believe that during the course of FY22, our economy will continue to stabilize,” Richardson said. “We’ll know a lot more about our economy, our customer service expectations and what the public needs and expects, and the way we work.”

Supervisors did not have many specific questions during the presentation, but Samuel Miller District representative Liz Palmer said she supported the investments in public safety at North Garden. 

“The North Garden Volunteer Fire Department is a wonderful building that’s been kept up by the community for many years,” Palmer said. “It is a prime location for an ambulance because there are so many accidents on 29 South down there.”

The first public hearing will be held virtually on March 3 at 6 p.m. Work sessions begin on March 10 and continue throughout the month. Stay tuned to the Week Ahead newsletter to learn when. 

Source: Albemarle County