Tonight, the Charlottesville Planning Commission will have a joint public hearing with the City Council on a rezoning on a cul-de-sac on the western edge of Fifeville. A property owner on Valley Road Extended seeks the rezoning and a special use permit to build four apartment units on just under two-thirds of land. The applicant is proffering $48,000 to build a portion of sidewalk and have suggested it could be part of a larger network. (meeting info)
“Sidewalk improvements along the new parcel frontage along Valley Road Extended that ultimately may be incorporated into a more robust pedestrian and bicycle improvement network if the multi-use tunnel under the railroad right of way, as called for in the  Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan,” reads the narrative.
The narrative references a map on page 38 of the plan that depicts many desired projects throughout the city. One of them is this underpass at the northern end of Valley Road Extended.
However, there is no active project planned for such a tunnel at this site to occur, according to city Communications Director Brian Wheeler. In all, there is a distance of 4,500 feet where the railroad bisects the Fifeville neighborhood from the University of Virginia without a pedestrian or vehicular crossing, between Shamrock Road and Roosevelt Brown Boulevard.
The University of Virginia is also not planning for a tunnel at that location, according to its non-voting representative on the Planning Commission. After the city agreed to hand over right of way for the Brandon Avenue corridor, UVA agreed to study for a railroad crossing and settled on a different planning concept closer to Monroe Lane and Paton Street. However, they are not pursuing a crossing at this time but will work with the city on an easement should it choose to proceed.
(This article originally appeared in the May 11, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement)
The Charlottesville Tree Commission got an update on several topics at its meeting on May 4, including an update on several projects planned for Charlottesville’s McIntire Park.
“In McIntire Park there are three projects going on that are really private-public partnerships,” said Peggy Van Yahres, a member of the Tree Commission.
Van Yahres is part of one project to install a memorial grove in McIntire Park to commemorate people who have been awarded the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce’s citizenship award.
“We wanted to preserve the landmark oak trees on the top of McIntire Park on the east side,” Van Yahres said. “The other objective was just to enliven the park and make it a better place for people to go and sit underneath these beautiful trees.”
The memorial would be a stone terrace on which the names of the past and future award winners would be displayed.
“There will be a beautiful lawn, people can play, a walkway, and of course, a lot more oak trees to continue the tradition,” Van Yahres said.
Van Yahres said the grove has been added to the schematic design for the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont. That’s the new name for the nonprofit that entered into a memorandum of agreement with the City of Charlottesville to operate in the northeast section of McIntire Park. She said the grove will hopefully be installed by this fall.
As for the garden, Jill Trischman-Marks is executive director of the newly renamed organization. There was a naming contest.
“We had over two hundred responses and selected Botanical Garden of the Piedmont because it was precise and concise,” Trischman-Marks said. “It not only identified where the garden is located but it also talked about the trees and other plants that will be highlighted in this garden.”
The nonprofit is on the hook to raise funds to pay for infrastructure and to install the garden.
“The city of Charlottesville has dedicated the land to this project but that’s where the taxpayer burden ends,” Trischman-Marks said. “All of the funds that are needed to design, construct, and maintain the garden will be privately raised but once it is built just like any other city park, the Botanical Garden will be free and accessible to all.”
“And share the survey with your friends, families, and neighbors because the more feedback we get, the better this garden will be,” Trischman-Marks said
Trischman-Marks will update the Charlottesville Planning Commission at their meeting on Tuesday.
The third project is a more low-key initiative from the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards to plant new specimens.
Later in the meeting, the Tree Commission got an update on plans to fight the Emerald Ash Borer from the city arborist, Mike Ronayne.
“The Emerald Ash borer is an invasive insect from Siberia and it will be killing all of our untreated ash trees in Charlottesville,” Ronayne said. “And now it seems like it’s come through other parts of Virginia like northern Virginia and now we’re really just starting to deal with all the dead ash trees that we’re finding in Charlottesville.”
The goal is to protect 31 individual trees in the city, and have sought additional funding from City Council for the purpose and to remove the dead trees. About one to two percent of trees in the city’s parkland are ash trees. A draft cost estimate to remove the trees over five years is $480,000. That does not cover the cost of planting replacements. The cost to annually treat those 31 trees will be $8,425 a year. Todd Brown is the city’s director of parks and recreation.
“Basically this is a state of emergency situation,” Brown said. “These trees are dying. Ninety-nine percent of them are going to die and right now we’ve been hitting at a tiny fraction of them. For everyone we’re doing, there are ten more that need to be done and ten more that die. We’re chasing a moving target that’s eventually going to stop and eventually we are going to have to catch up to it.”
One of the largest capital expenses facing any governmental entity in the community is the nine and a half mile waterline the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) has planned. Long planned, the line will connect the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and the Ragged Mountain Reservoir. Ragged Mountain is currently fed by a pipeline from Sugar Hollow Reservoir, one that is nearing a hundred years old. The new waterline won’t be built for several more years, but the RWSA has been acquiring the right of way for the project. Executive Director Bill Mawyer gave his Board an update on April 27, 2021.
“The Albemarle County School Board granted about a one mile easement for the Rivanna to Ragged Mountain project this month,” Mawyer said.
In all, the RWSA has easements for about six of the 9.5 miles and is in negotiations with the University of Foundation and private property owners for the rest. The RWSA has a 40 year lease with the city of Charlottesville to operate the Ragged Mountain reservoir which expires in 2052. There’s talk already of extending those terms given the community investment in the water supply plan.
“So as an example based on our current schedule, we would finish the new pipeline say around 2033, and then in effect we would only have 20 years left on the lease of a major water supply facility that we’ve just spent a lot of money on to expand and build the pipeline so we can fill it,” Mawyer said.
The RWSA Board also got an update on the health of the five reservoirs maintained by the authority. Their usable storage volume is updated every ten years according to water resources manager Andrea Bowles.
“We get this information from our bathymetries that we do,” Bowles said. “We do bathymetries for the urban system reservoirs every ten years.”
One of the concerns is the presence of algae in reservoirs, which can lead to oxygen depletion that threatens aquatic life. Each of the five reservoirs has a slightly different balance and Bowles explained how algae is managed. Beaver Creek Reservoir is currently the one most prone to blooms. There were five at the Crozet waterway in 2020, but none of them were problematic enough to require treatment.
“That is the reservoir that we’re going to do an alternative of hypolimnetic oxygenation to try to help with blooms,” Bowles said.
An algae bloom at Ragged Mountain Reservoir is underway and treatment was expected to begin last week.
“We are having an issue with an algae called dinobryon which is a golden algae, not a blue-green algae, it doesn’t produce the toxins,” Bowles said. “We have that right now going on in Ragged Mountain. It is a big taste and odor producer and we have a threshold and it is slightly over the threshold.”
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors said last week they want a faster review of the county’s Comprehensive Plan and that three years will be too long.
Supervisors last updated the plan six years ago and much has changed since then, according to Planning Manager Rachel Falkenstein.
“Since the 2015 update, we have had significant work on: climate action planning; economic development; and equity, inclusion, and infrastructure investments and we want to better align the plan with those initiatives,” Falkenstein said.
Falkenstein said the Comprehensive Plan also needs to inform a rewrite of the rules of where development can go, and how.
“We’ve identified the need for a zoning ordinance update and doing the comp plan update now to incorporate these initiatives will help set that stage,” Falkenstein said.
In February, Supervisors had pushed back on the three year process staff recommended to update the Comprehensive Plan and asked for a more expedited review. However, Falkenstein said staff still believed in a 36-month process.
“We feel that given the level of engagement and the breadth of topics that are covered in the comp plan, that three years is really a realistic timeline for this work,” Falkenstein said.
A detailed community engagement plan will come back to the Board later this year. A project advisory group would be formed to oversee the process and members would be paid a stipend. Staff has now changed that to have the funding to used to “reduce barriers to participation.” These could include access to language as well as transportation.
Supervisor Ann Mallek said the existing plan is clear to read, and she did not want that to be lost as the current plan is amended.
“The benefit of our comp plan and I think why it won awards and is very well accepted is its readability and the fact that it is not just the last 12 months of something,” Mallek said. “It is a very long term history document about how we got here.”
Supervisor Liz Palmer said she wanted the Planning Commission to weigh in about whether the plan needed to be rewritten, or just updated.
“I am concerned about this idea of a three-year plan being a complete rewrite of this Comprehensive Plan and that’s the part I’m really struggling with,” Palmer said.
Palmer also wanted to know if the zoning ordinance and Comprehensive Plan could be updated at the same time given many conflicts. County Attorney Greg Kamptner said he would prefer to do the comp plan update first.
“The ideal situation would be to have a comp plan and then immediately follow it with a comprehensive rewrite and updating of the zoning ordinance because it is 40 years old,” Kamptner said.
Palmer asked if that would mean the zoning rewrite would not begin for three years. Planning Director Charles Rapp said supervisors will have the chance to weigh in with more direction as the work plan for the Community Development Department comes before them. He said work on the the zoning rewrite could at least begin before the comp plan is finished.
“I think once we get to that framework for the comp plan so we know what it’s going to contain, then we can go ahead and start making progress on the zoning ordinance,” Rapp said.
Charlottesville hired one consultant to produce an affordable housing plan, a Comprehensive Plan, and a new zoning ordinance. The Cville Plans Together initiative just completed the housing plan, which Council endorsed earlier this month. Albemarle Supervisors had a public hearing on their new housing plan last week, but sent it back to the Planning Commission for further work. I’ll have more on that in the next installment.
As for the Albemarle Comprehensive Plan, Supervisor Diantha McKeel also thought three years was too long to wait, and that parts of the zoning needed to be changed sooner.
“The zoning, the code, it is critical to getting it updated,” McKeel said. “To be honest with you it’s really my priority along with specific areas in the comp plan. Economic development. Climate action. I mean, I could go through and name maybe just a couple of others.”
Deputy County Executive Doug Walker said he heard a disconnect between staff and the Board on this issue. He provided some clarifications.
“This is not intended to be a rewrite which was actually done the last time,” Walker said. “It is an update but I acknowledge that to some extent updating and rewriting may seem a lot the same if we’re not very careful about how we distinguish one from the other.”
Falkenstein said staff will come back with a more detailed scope, but still maintained the process will be lengthy. County Executive Jeffrey Richardson agreed.
“The staff is trying to manage this and manage the Board’s expectations,” Richardson said. “Three years sounds like a long time but everywhere I have ever been, a Comprehensive Plan update takes quite some time because of the domino effect of touching all of the various aspects of the plan document.”
The Buildings and Grounds Committee of the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors met yesterday and approved the schematic design for a new hotel and conference center, as well as an athletics complex. The $130.5 million hotel project will be located near the new School of Data Science within the emerging Ivy Corridor. (meeting packet)
“A mixed-use hospitality, convening, and social destination in this central location will provide a catalyst to achieve these strategic goals set by the President’s Emmet Ivy Task Force,” reads the staff report.
Those goals include supporting the Democracy Initiative, an initiative of the College of Arts and Sciences and other institutions.
The University and its real estate foundation have been purchasing land along Ivy Road for many years to assemble enough space, including the Cavalier Inn. That structure was demolished in the summer of 2018 and the place where it stood will remain undeveloped according to a 2020 site plan.
The hotel will have 215 rooms and 28,000 square feet of space for conferences. It will wrap around the existing parking garage.
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.
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.
On Monday, February 15, Chip Boyles will officially become Charlottesville’s City Manager. On February 4, the Board of Commissioners of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission said goodbye to Boyles in his capacity as their executive director. He has been there since April 2014. Greene County Supervisor Dale Herring is Chair of the TJPDC Board and he read from a proclamation.
“Whereas the influence and reputation of the TJPDC and the quality of programs and services during Chip’s tenure has been greatly enhanced by the vision, skills, and passion he brought to TJPDC’s mission, therefore be it resolved that the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission expresses enduring gratitude and appreciation for the generous and faithful service provided to the TJPDC and this region by Chip Boyles.”
Commissioner Keith Smith of Fluvanna County said Boyles took over at a time when the TJPDC had opted to not renew the contract of a previous director.
“We were in a bad way and just to do a 180, it was purely upon his skill, his leadership, and that funny accent of his, people apparently trust him,” Smith said. “Who knew?”
Charlottesville City Councilor Michael Payne said he appreciated the comments from other TJPDC Commissioners.
“I’m just incredibly excited to work with Chip going forward and I think there are really bright days ahead for the region as a whole,” Payne said.
Nelson County Supervisor Jesse Rutherford praised Boyles’ optimism but also made a threat in jest.
“Michael and you all, I’m just saying,” Rutherford said. “My threat out there of saying that if this doesn’t go well, we will ban all fruit products and beverages from going into Charlottesville from Nelson County. That’s a serious one and whoever the reporter is in here, write that down!”
Rutherford also sounded a more positive tone.
“We look forward to the success of Charlottesville,” Rutherford said. “That is not only important to Nelson County but the region. I can’t say this enough, but we have sent you our best, alright?”
One of TJPDC’s achievements with Boyles in charge is the creation of the Regional Transit Partnership, a gathering of various agencies that has spent the last few years laying out the foundation for a more integrated system. Recently the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) awarded TJPDC a grant to help build more of the framework.
“This award is $175,000 for the development of a regional plan as recommended by the Regional Transit Partnership,” Jacobs said. “There is a match for this of $175,000 to be provided both by Albemarle County and the city of Charlottesville over two fiscal years.”
This plan will involve coordination between Charlottesville Area Transit, the University Transit Service, JAUNT and Albemarle County. The DRPT also awarded a $106,500 grant to TJPDC to study expansion of transit in Albemarle. The county will have to pay half of that as a match.
“This study is to develop the financial feasibility of new transit services in three different areas,” Jacobs said. “Route 29 north, Monticello, and Pantops.”
The TJPDC also coordinates regional priorities for Community Development Block Grants. Applications to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development from non-urban localities are due on March 26.
“As of the end of January, we’ve already been notified of one project in Louisa County for a planning and infrastructure grant for affordable housing,” Jacobs said. “We know of a Nelson County potential grant for downtown revitalization of Lovingston. We have Albemarle County acquisition and redevelopment for an affordable housing project. And Scottsville has a redevelopment project going on.”
The Virginia DHCD is now directly administering a rent and mortgage relief program to assist households during the pandemic, but the TJPDC was in charge of the program in the second half of calendar year 2020.
“We were awarded a total grant of $1.8 million dollars for the region [and] $1.624 million of that went directly to pay for rent and mortgage relief for qualifying families,” Jacobs said. “That was 570 families in this region who were served with an average of $2,000 rent per household.”
Locally, the TJPDC has launched an online portal called Porch Light that allows people to find affordable housing opportunities.
“If you know people who have rental properties, direct them to our website and they can go directly to the site,” Boyles said. “We need landlords to list their properties. It’s free. It’s easy.”
Nelson County Supervisor Rutherford said the COVID pandemic has brought a real sense of urgency about housing.
“We’re going to be doing some hard soul-searching in Nelson County and what it is we can do to get some economies of scale and some more dense housing,” Rutherford said.
Rutherford said he is aware that some newcomers to the area are choosing Nelson due to the provision of more broadband Internet. He said he has a tenant who works in Crystal City and commutes twice a week.
“We’re going to see some major culture changes in our workforce and in how we operate on a business level,” Rutherford said.
“In the preparation of a comprehensive plan, the commission shall make careful and comprehensive surveys and studies of the existing conditions and trends of growth, and of the probable future requirements of its territory and inhabitants,” reads 15.2-2223.
Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan guides all decisions made in the county, and a major plank is a growth management policy. Charles Rapp became planning director in 2019, but he knows the history. The county’s first Comprehensive Plan dates back to 1971.
“At that time there was a population of just under 40,000 people here in the county,” Rapp said.
Nine years later, the county’s Comprehensive Plan had been updated to call for a growth management policy to limit suburban sprawl. The Board of Supervisors adopted a downzoning in 1980 that established the designated growth areas we know today. The last update was approved in 2015 after a long period of review.
“That update along with the numerous updates over the past 15 years have added a wealth of information throughout our Comprehensive Plan and that has resulted in a document that is over 400 pages long,” Rapp said.
Rapp said the county continues to experience growth, and the pandemic did not slow down the number of building permits and land use applications. Forecasts show the trend will continue.
“The current population is estimated at just below 110,000 here in Albemarle County which is bringing new challenges,” Rapp said. “There have been recent discussion with the Board and with some of our community groups and other boards and commissions focused on transportation infrastructure, affordable housing, development density and form as our development areas take on more urban character, protection of natural resources, scenic viewsheds, and the rural areas.”
Rapp said the upcoming Comprehensive Plan update will give community members and elected officials the chance to review all of these issues. He said there’s also an opportunity to add focus on two new priorities that have emerged in the past few years.
“There’s been an organizational core value of equity and inclusion and diversity which we feel should really be folded into all aspects of this Comprehensive Plan,” Rapp said. “Another item that we’d like to see is to strengthen the synergy between the comp plan’s policies and the goals of the Climate Action Plan so they really align together.”
Rapp said staff is recommending an approach that would “deconstruct” the existing plan and try to root inconsistencies. The idea is to hire a temporary project coordinator to work on a three-year, five phase process to update the plan. The first would be pre-planning, but planning manager Rachel Falkenstein said community engagement would begin in the second. (conceptual scope)
“The second phase we are calling Big Questions and Community Goals, and here is where we would begin the broad engagement process on developing a community vision,” Falkenstein said.
The third phase would deal with land use topics in order to set expectations for community development. The fourth would include development of new policy recommendations, and the fifth would be adoption of the plan. The conceptual framework said this would take place in the first quarter of 2024. A new committee would be created to oversee the project and members of this Project Advisory Group would be paid stipends. The county would hire artists to try to find new ways of conducting community engagement.
Not mentioned by staff, but this year, three seats are up on the Board of Supervisors, and the other three are up for election in 2023. Before then, current supervisors get to approve the pathway forward.
Supervisor Diantha McKeel is in the final year of her second term representing the Jack Jouett District and she expressed a concern.
“Three years is taking me back a little bit,” McKeel said. “That is a long time. I understand there is a lot of work and we don’t want to rush it but three years seems like a long time to get this update done.”
For comparison, the city of Charlottesville is entering the fifth year of its Comprehensive Plan process. (cvilleplanstogether)
But back to Albemarle. The first plan in 1971 envisioned a lot more urban development than currently planned. Supervisor Ann Mallek has been active in civic affairs there since the mid 1980’s and was active with the Earlysville Area Residents’ League.
“Back in the 90’s, 80s, Earlysville’s crossroads was a village and thankfully during the early 90’s the leaders of our little organization at the urging of the residents said, well go down to the Board of Supervisors and ask them when we’re going to get out sewers and our sidewalks to go along with all of the townhouses that we were supposed to have right here in the middle of Earlysville,” Mallek said. “And the Board at the time said you’re not getting any, so the response was, take away our village, and they did. That’s not going to happen now I’m sure because all of the services have expanded out much much further than they used to be.”
This will be the first Comprehensive Plan update for Supervisor Donna Price of the Scottsville District. She said Albemarle’s population has grown by 175 percent since 1971.
“This simply exemplifies the complexities of what we are dealing with as an urbanized county that many of our other nearby communities don’t face and really demonstrates the necessity of a review of our Comprehensive Plan,” Price said.
Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley of the Rivanna District was elected in 2019 along with Price. She said she thought the plan revision should be conducted through the Community Advisory Committees rather than create a new committee.
“I will be honest with you, I’ve got a problem with offering some stipends to people,” LaPisto Kirtley said. “I didn’t see how much it would be per person.”
LaPisto-Kirtley said she would support a chapter-by-chapter review of the existing documents rather than appear to start from scratch. Supervisor Liz Palmer’s first year on the Board of Supervisors in 2014 was spent during such a review.
“A lot of people communicate through the Board,” Palmer said. “They elect us. They listen to us. And development and land use planning is what they’re asking us about half the time. I would want to make sure the Board is quite involved in this and doesn’t come in at the end when you guys have gotten this document all together and it’s dumped on our lap.”
At the end of the discussion, Rapp said he would try to come back with a way to speed up the timeline. A new proposal will come back to the Board of Supervisors at a later date.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is participating in a program that seeks to help provide a safer journey for winged creatures that majestically migrate across the Commonwealth. Angel Deem is the director of VDOT’s environmental division and she spoke before the Commonwealth Transportation Board on January 19.
CCAA is a program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that works with other government agencies to conserve land for at-risk species, such as the Monarch butterfly. Deem said the goal is to conserve millions of acres of land across the nation that are currently being used by state highway agencies and land used to produce energy. Another specific goal is to plant milkweed on 2.3 million acres.
Last December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services updated the endangered species list, and the Monarch is listed as “warranted but precluded.” Deem explains.
“What they mean by precluded is that there are other priority listings ahead of this one so they are essentially going to put it on hold if you will and continue to monitor its progress,” Deem said.
Progress would be made if existing habitats aren’t threatened to be converted to some other uses. The use of pesticides and mowing of state right of way are other threats.
“Those things are impacting the available foraging and breeding habitat for the Monarch,” Deem said.
Under the CCAA, VDOT would agree to taking several conservation measures.
“We would do some specific seeding and planting and brush removal to encourage suitable habitat for the Monarch,” Deem said. “We would also participate in what’s called conservation mowing, allowing food sources to be available to develop for the Monarch as well as breeding sites.”
VDOT entered into the agreement last November and the goal in the first year will be to apply the measures to 1,567 acres. Deem said VDOT has already achieved that goal and is now making progress towards the five year goal of doubling that amount. For more information on the program, watch the entire presentation on YouTube. (view the slides)
The fallout from the economic shutdown related to the COVID-19 pandemic means that Charlottesville is facing a tougher financial future than would have been expected. Last night, the City Council got an update on the city’s financial picture. Ryan Davidson is a senior budget analyst with the city. (read the report)
“There’s been a marked decline in many of our revenues and our new revenue projections are approximately $5 million than what we had previously presented to City Council,” Davidson said.
Specifically, meals tax collections are $2 million lower than had been forecast in September, and transient lodging tax collections are $1.86 million lower. But not all sources of revenue are in the red.
“Licenses and permits,” Davidson said. “This is one bit of good news! We are seeing continued strong performance in our building and plumbing and our other permits. We’re expecting almost a half million increase.”
Davidson said in the worst case scenario with revenues that continue to decline, the city could end up with a $13.2 million shortfall by the end of the year. To manage that shortfall, budget staff are using the cash reserve that Council agreed to put aside when it approved the budget for the current fiscal year. That money would have gone to various items in the capital improvement program. Davidson said the city may also need to use surpluses from both FY19 and FY20.
“That can be up to $4.1 million that we could bring in as the potential revenue source to help fill that gap,” Davidson said. He added that the city is trying to avoid laying off any employees, but it will take a full effort by Council and staff to continue to get through the year.
Davidson reminded the Council there are still just over five months left in the fiscal year, and projections can change over time as conditions fluctuate.
“Let’s try to manage to the worst case scenario, then if things are better than that, then we will be prepared for that,” Davidson said. “And if they’re better than that, we have leverage and we will have resources that we have not yet had to use.”