It’s been nearly a month since the City of Charlottesville announced it would resume the practice of shutting down service for unpaid utility bills. There was a statewide moratorium on such disconnects that expired last September. In all, the city used $557,000 in various federal assistance programs to help some customers.
However, they announced in April disconnects would resume.
“To date, six accounts have been disconnected and remain out of service,” said Chris Cullinan, the city’s finance director, in an email to Charlottesville Community Engagement.
Charlottesville City Council has voted to rezone nearly 12 acres of land in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood in order for Southern Development to build 170 units. They also voted for the first time on a proposal that would tie a specific infrastructure project to increased revenues that will be generated by higher property taxes.
“This is going to allow us to get infrastructure that we need in that part of the city that we would not have otherwise done,” said Councilor Brian Pinkston.
The current Charlottesville City Council had the chance this month to check in with the redevelopment of Friendship Court. The Piedmont Housing Alliance came before Council on April 18 with a request to amend an agreement that governs a $6 million forgivable loan granted in November 2020 for the first phase.
The amendment is a technical one because the full amount had not been allocated by Council in a subsequent budget cycle.
Brenda Kelley is the redevelopment manager for the city of Charlottesville, a position currently housed in the Office of Community Solutions.
“This request is not asking for additional funding,” Kelley said. “This funding is already approved in this current budget.”
Even though Council has recently adopted a budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, there is never a time when the city’s finances are not in the public eye. Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers briefed Council this week on the state of revenue collection for the current fiscal year that ends on June 30.
“So far this year we have currently collected 66.93 percent of our budgeted revenue and we remain on track to collect more than the adopted revenue budget of $192,212,843,” Rogers said.
In a brief meeting last night, Charlottesville City Council adopted a nearly $212.9 million budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. However, a penny increase in the real estate tax rate goes into effect for the calendar year, which will be included in the tax bills that will soon be sent to property owners. That’s the first increase in the tax rate several decades.
“It’s been a long budget season,” said interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. “We’ve listened as staff to your various proposals and desires to address issues in our community.”
The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission has awarded $1.8 million in funds to regional housing nonprofits and entities. The funding comes from a $2 million grant to the TJPDC from the entity formerly known as the Virginia Housing Development Authority for the purpose of constructing or preserving affordable housing.
“By virtue of us receiving $2 million, we are obligated to construct at least 20 new affordable housing units,” said Ian Baxter, a planner with the TJPDC.
When Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders joined Charlottesville’s management team last July, he more or less filled a vacancy for a lower position that had been open for a year.
“I became your housing coordinator right away, because we didn’t have one,” Sanders said at an April 4 work session on the city’s affordable housing policy. “I have been spending a lot of time observing, reviewing, questioning, complaining, evaluating, and testing all of what we do, how we do it, why we do it, and trying to figure out what else we can do to make it all run more smoothly and definitely be run better.”
There are eight days left until Charlottesville City Council will adopt a budget for the next fiscal year, and many remaining decisions have yet to be made on tax rates.
Will there be an increase in the city’s real estate tax increase? Council can increase to as high as $1.05 per $100 of assessed value.
Will the city lower the personal property tax rate on vehicles to provide relief in the face of climbing values? The Commissioner of Revenue has recommended doing so, but leaving it at $4.20 per $100 of assessed value would bring in $2 million in additional revenue.
Will Council agree to a half percentage point in the meals tax? There’s a public hearing on this tonight.
The Affordable Housing Plan adopted by Charlottesville City Council in March 2021 established a moral commitment for the city to spend $10 million each year on affordable housing projects and administration. But how have previous funds for that purpose been spent since 2010?
“In summary, you’ve administered $46.7 million in funding [and] this is broken down into operating, program, development, and city administration,” said Callahan Seltzer, a principal with HR&A Advisors. “And when we see development here, we’re talking about new construction and rehab, so specific hard costs related to construction and rehab of affordable housing.”
The Rivanna Solid Waste Authority’s Board of Directors most recently met on March 22, 2022 and got an introduction to the budget for fiscal year 2023. The RSWA’s Board is made up of one Charlottesville City Councilor, one Albemarle Supervisors, two city staffers, two county staffers, and a citizen appointed by both elected bodies.
This year’s winter storms wreaked havoc on many trees across the region, and there was much debris for government crews and property owners. In January, the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority waived fees to drop off downed limbs and trees at the Ivy Materials Utilization Center where it was turned into mulch.
“We had so much mulch available after the free vegetative debris disposal program from the storm in January that we had so much mulch, we were giving away the first two tons and then charging people after that,” said Bill Mawyer, the executive director of the RWSA and the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority.