In the near future, Charlottesville could very well finalize plans to renovate Buford Middle School to accommodate sixth grade students, a first step toward a long-planned and long-awaited reconfiguration of the city’s schools.
The School Board got an update on construction estimates in September, and the final number will factor heavily into the city’s budget discussions for the next fiscal year. (VMDO working against inflation as design for Buford expansion continues and estimates increase, September 2, 2022)
On Monday, Council approved guidelines for the use of funds that could be raised through something called the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act, which goes by the acronym PPEA.
Charlottesville has many tools in the effort to ensure some residential units in the city that are below-market. Two of them date back to 2007.
One is the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund, which has disbursed $46.7 million in funds since 2010 according to a report Council was briefed on this past April. (Deputy City Manager Sanders reviews recent audit of Charlottesville’s housing fund, April 6, 2022)
The other is a 2007 loan to the Piedmont Housing Alliance to assist Woodard Properties in acquiring Dogwood Housing.
“In 2007, Council at that time extended a loan in the amount of $850,000 for the acquisition of 57 residential units to be maintained as rental properties,” said Sam Sanders, the Deputy City Manager.
Charlottesville is considering a Climate Action Plan to guide efforts to become carbon neutral by 2050. In the meantime, much of the city’s fleet still operates on fossil fuels with a fueling station on Avon Street in Albemarle County.
“That fuel station has been in place for quite a while and the below-ground fuel tank is at the end of its usable life and is becoming uninsurable at this point,” said Michael Goddard is a Senior Project Manager in the city’s Public Works Department.
Tax relief changes deferred until November 7
The Charlottesville City Council voted on October 17, 2022 to update the city’s transient lodging tax ordinance to reflect recent changes in Virginia law.
“The General Assembly for the last two years has made some significant changes to provision of sales tax and local transient occupancy tax to try to address various issues raised by online travel agencies and online travel platforms like AirBnB and others,” Divers said.
Divers said Council made some changes last year, but the 2022 legislation forces the city to make new ones related to how the taxes are collected and reported. The new law allows the taxation on the total charge for a stay, such as cleaning fees.
Charlottesville City Council changed the rules classifying whether freelance writers and authors are subject to the city’s business license ordinance. The Virginia Supreme Court in City of Charlottesville v Regulus Books ruled earlier this year that Charlottesville’s ordinance did not sufficiently specify that work from the profession was not a “service” that triggered tax collections. (read the ruling)
“In my opinion, [the ruling] curiously found a deficiency in our business license ordinance and this so measure attempts to… it will address it,” said Todd Divers, the Commissioner of the Revenue.
Divers said the new ordinance creates a specific category for writers under subclassification H. Those are businesses that must pay $0.36 for every $100 of gross receipts. The city has had to refund several thousand dollars in taxes to several people who had previously been taxed incorrectly. There was no discussion on Council and the motion passed 5 to 0.
Charlottesville City Council spent an hour and a half on Monday taking a look at the plans for the budget for the fiscal year that begins next July. I’ll have more about that conversation in a future edition of the newsletter
But they also got a snapshot summary of the first quarter of the existing fiscal year at the beginning of their regular meeting from Krisy Hammill, the city’s budget and performance director.
“We are looking at a revenue surplus at the moment based on our performance in the first quarter,” Hammill said. “If everything were to hold true with that, we are looking at roughly $4 million revenue surplus for FY23.”
Charlottesville City Council adopted an affordable housing plan in March 2021 and more than a year and a half later one of the recommendations is being implemented.
“Charlottesville should build governance structures that institutionalize an equitable and efficient implementation of the Affordable Housing Plan,” reads one goal on page 13 of the plan.
Charlottesville is seeking a firm to help relaunch the creation of a new strategic plan. A request for proposals for a consultant went out on Monday to update a plan that ran out in FY2020 but was extended.
“The process will be closely coordinated with and guided by a Strategic Plan Working Group comprised of City staff members,” reads the RFP. “The Working Group envisions a highly engaged consulting role that is deeply involved in gathering, processing, and summarizing the information generated by various consultation and participation processes.”
The Downtown Mall is 46 years old and remains a destination for locals and out-of-towners alike. One thing has been constant for most of that time.
“There [has] not been in the history of the Mall any truly accessible public restrooms that are proximate to where people are when they’re on the Mall,” said Chris Engel, the city’s economic development director. “Prior to COVID the transit center which is at the east end of the mall and it had some public facilities on the lower level.”
Charlottesville City Council got a first look at the long-awaited Climate Action Plan for Charlottesville at a work session on October 3. The document is intended to help steer the city towards meeting energy efficiency goals. (view the plan)
“The City of Charlottesville committed to developing a Climate Action Plan, or CAP, to achieve greenhouse gas reductions of 45 percent by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050,” said Kristel Riddervold is the manager of the environmental sustainability division in the Charlottesville Public Works Department.
“It identifies projects, programs, policies, processes, and some key resources needed to support action in the near-term,” Riddervold continued.