Fiscal Year 2023 is just over a month old, but the budget process in Virginia never really stops as local governments seek to provide services. In April, Council adopted a $212.9 million general fund budget that was 10.76 percent higher than the one for the year before. That’s built on increased assessments for both real estate and personal property as well as a one-cent increase in the real estate tax rate. That was the first such increase in several decades.
There are about 30 weeks until whoever is City Manager in March 2023 presents a recommended budget and 36 weeks until Council is expected to adopt their amended document. Council got a briefing this past Monday and learned about some of the factors coming up and some suggested the schedule be moved up. (view the presentation)
Charlottesville has now received all of the $19.6 million in funding it will receive from the federal government as part of the American Rescue Plan Act fund. Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers gave Council an update at their meeting on July 18.
“It’s been a big help for local government in terms of recovery from the impact of the pandemic,” Rogers said.
Classes begin for Charlottesville City Schools in four weeks and work continues to prepare for a year in which more students will not be eligible to get a ride on a school bus. A driver shortage has led the school system to expand walk zones that are still being finalized.
“We are hoping to let families know this week about their current bus eligibility and whether they have a bus request on files,” reads an email update sent to interested parties on Monday. “This status update will tell families if their child is in a walk zone or eligible for the bus.”
Charlottesville City Council has taken a first step on implementing a five cent tax on most plastic bags at retail stores. A first reading was held on Monday but the public hearing will be held on August 1.
“It’s still a work in process at this point and we’re not ready for a final version of it,” said Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook.
As of today, there are 39 days left until the first day of school in the City of Charlottesville. Yesterday, the school system held a Transportation Talk and Walk Session to discuss a recent alert from Superintendent Royal Gurley that the bus driver shortage has worsened and walk zones will be expanded.
This past Tuesday, the city Planning Commission was briefed on a request from one of its members that city government take steps to make routes to school. They got an update from Missy Creasy, Charlottesville’s assistant director of the Neighborhood Development Services office (NDS).
“The city has a pretty robust program that they’re putting together to address how they are addressing the shortage at this point in time and some pretty innovative things on there,” Creasy said.
Charlottesville City Council has authorized the city’s economic development director to purchase 921 E. Jefferson Street for $1.6 million. Here’s Chris Engel. (read the staff report)
“This parcel is four tenths of an acre and is currently used as a 39-space surface parking lot,” Engel said. “Staff recommends purchase as it puts the city in control of an asset that will help with current and future parking capacity issues.”
There’s less than a week until the fiscal new year for Virginia and its local governments. On Tuesday, Charlottesville City Council got an update from interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers on what can be expected in terms of “one-time money” in the form of a financial report. (read the report)
“And we see that there’s a projected $14 million surplus for revenue,” Rogers said.
Charlottesville City Council has voted to officially cancel the $55 million West Main Streetscape project as well as other projects in an effort to get the city’s transportation house in order.
The Virginia Department of Transportation will now administer a project to extend a turn lane at Route 250 and Hydraulic Road. A project to coordinate traffic signals on Emmet Street has also been canceled, as has a Smart Scale funded project at the intersection of Preston and Grady.
The details were discussed at a work session with the Planning Commission on May 24. (read my story)
“While this is called cancellation of those projects, that’s in regards to the funding with VDOT, so as discussed, especially some of the safety projects, these are not going away forever, they’re just going away as Smart Scale projects,” said City Engineer Jack Dawson.
Hotel occupancy in Albemarle and Charlottesville continues to rebound with overnight stats in April of this year slightly above the previous year, but still below pre-pandemic levels.
“We’re recovering a bit,” said Courtney Cacatian, the executive director of the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Our hotel occupancy is still limited by our workforce here.”
The city of Charlottesville has planned and built most of the transportation infrastructure projects within city limits since 2005. Soon after Deputy City Manager for Operations Sam Sanders took on the role last summer, he noticed there were some performance issues that require a total reboot of the way the city undertakes this work.
“Some initial assessments when I first arrived here was that the development review process within [the Department of Neighborhood Development Services] needed some attention,” Sanders said. “And in doing that work since I’ve been here I’ve discovered it was more than just that. It was also looking closely as the Public Works / Engineering side of the house.”