Council hears from Police Chief Kochis, CAT director Williams
Charlottesville City Council continues to comb through the budget for the next fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2023. As the city prepares itself for a future with more residential density, staying on top of the budget is a good way to track preparations.
One of the key subjects areas of Charlottesville Community Engagement is the budget process of Albemarle County and Charlottesville. There’s a whole set of stories on Information Charlottesville that captures this topic over time.
Charlottesville’s budget was introduced at the March 6 meeting, as I reported at the time with a second story from March 9.
Council held their first work session on the budget on March 9, 2023. Here’s a summary of what I heard. (slides from the presentation)
Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers’ recommended budget is just over $226 million, $13 million higher than in the current fiscal year.
“Mostly from real estate taxes, $9 million,” Rogers said. “And the food and lodging sales taxes increased, for a total sum of $13 million.”
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)
Budget season is really a year-round event in Charlottesville, as my reporting can attest. But on Monday, Council was formally introduced to the spending plans for both Charlottesville local government and Charlottesville City Schools. The school system went first.
“Our proposed budget for FY24 is $107,128,647 and that is a budget change of $212,416,” said Superintendent Royal Gurley.
School Board Chair James Bryant thanked Council for their collaboration this year on addressing the school bus driver shortage and the recent purchase of Albemarle County’s share of the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center.
“Working together, we can meet both the needs of high schoolers and adult learners,” Bryant said. “We can also work to address the city’s workforce development goals to meet the needs of our area employers.”
Like most localities in Virginia, Charlottesville is seeking ways to retain its employees by increasing salaries. For instance, fellow Senate District 11 jurisdiction Amherst County is anticipating a seven percent cost of living adjustment.
Charlottesville had expected a study by the firm Gallagher on compensation to be completed by the end of 2022 but that was delayed to mid February. Now there’s a further delay.
“The compensation study is a complex piece of work that involves 237 job classifications that are being studied and 26 comparative communities that we are soliciting needed salary and benefit information from,” said interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers.
For many years, the city has been planning and preparing to replace a bridge that carries Dairy Road over the U.S. 250 Bypass. On Thursday, the city awarded a “design build” contract to the firm A. Morton and Associates.
“In this method, the designer and builder work on the same team from preliminary design to project close-out,” reads a press release that went out in January. “This method allows better communication of intent and constructability right from the start.”
Tonight, Council will have the second reading of a proposal to give half a million to a nonprofit organization outside of the budget cycle for an economic development project.
“This is BEACON, which stands for Black Entrepreneurial Advancement and Community Opportunity Network,” said Yolunda Harrell, the CEO of the New Hill Development Corporation. “What we are seeking to develop is a shared-use commercial kitchen and incubator in Charlottesville.”
Fiscal New Year is only 114 days away and Charlottesville City Council will meet tonight with the Charlottesville School Board at CATEC at 5 p.m. for a work session on the budget that will kick in on July 1.
Last week, Council held a work session to give its priorities for the creation of a budget including the setting of a tax rate. They also heard from interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers on budget guidelines including one that’s been in place for some years. (view the meeting) (view the presentation)
“We continue the strong commitment to education by allocating up to 40 percent of new city real estate and property tax revenues to schools,” Rogers said. “Now, this is a policy, this is a guideline. This is not written in stone except through the adoption of the budget.”
After several years of talking about making changes to Charlottesville City Schools to add sixth grade to Buford Middle School, the city has issued an invitation for firms to bid to do the construction and demolition work required. (bid page)
“The project is the result of about ten years of speculation and study by the City Schools and it responds to a need to take out one of the middle-year transitions for students Charlottesville City Schools,” said Mike Goddard, a senior project manager with the City of Charlottesville’s Public Works Department. “The ultimate plan for the project is to make Buford a three-year school so sixth, seventh and eighth grade will ultimately go to Buford and the fifth grade will be pushed back to the elementaries.”
Another item on the agenda tonight is a report from interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. The 14-page document contains a lot of information that may not be stated tonight because of the length of the meeting. (read the document)
- Charlottesville’s Compensation Study will be available on February 15. The document will likely lead to further salary increases for city employees.
- There are two firms still in the running to provide the function of Labor Relations Administrator to handle collective bargaining for the three unions approved by the city. That will also likely lead to further salary increases for city employees.
- The city continues to need new bus drivers and is paying $21 an hour as a starting wage. There are still almost 500 pupils who are not eligible for pupil transportation due to the triage rules put into place before the beginning of the school year.
- Albemarle County has taken over control of the surface parking lot at Market Street and Seventh Street for use by court staff and court visitors. Council agreed to amend the terms of an agreement late last year.
- The Office of Human Rights saw over 4,300 incoming and outgoing contacts for service last year, including around 2,500 which are outside the charge of its enabling ordinance. A full report will be presented to Council in the spring. The Office is hiring an intake specialist and are creating a Fair Housing Assistance Program in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
- Want to be a Charlottesville firefighter or work for the department in some capacity? The hiring window is now open through March 6.
- Want to rent a garden plot from the city of Charlottesville? The window for existing renters to renew their plot from Parks and Recreation lasts through Friday. If you’re a city resident and want a plot, you can begin applying after February 13. If you’re a non-resident, you have to wait until February 20. (learn more)
- Bids for the renovation and expansion of Buford Middle School are expected to go out today with a deadline of March 13. “Based on bid prices, Public Works will require swift decisions from Charlottesville Public Schools and City Council on options based on any foreseen escalations that exceeded our original estimate for construction.”
The Charlottesville City Council meets tonight for a very full meeting. Check out yesterday’s Week Ahead for all of the details, but one item on the consent agenda is worth giving some attention.
Council will be asked to spend $3,800 to hire a firm to conduct an appraisal of three parcels of land along the Rivanna River off of East High Street for which a private developer has filed filed for 245 apartment units.
“The appraisal will include sufficient information to understand the basis for the provided value taking into account market value for undeveloped land, the allowed uses of the property under zoning, and the costs associated with the necessary improvements to the property in order for it to be developable,” reads the staff report.