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Group completes review of new revenue options for Albemarle
Tom Foley, Lee Catlin, Dennis Rooker, October 21, 2015
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(left to right) Tom Foley, Lee Catlin and Dennis Rooker
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Sean Tubbs | Saturday, October 31, 2015 at 5:02 p.m.

A panel of citizens and former officials has completed their review of potential ways Albemarle County could raise more revenue to fill budgetary shortfalls caused in part by a growing population.

“This committee’s report really does bring some value to the Board of Supervisors in terms of what they should spend time on and pursue,” said county executive Thomas Foley at the final meeting of the Citizens Resource Advisory Committee.

The group was formed this year to get the input of leaders such as former University of Virginia official Leonard Sandridge, former Charlottesville city manager Cole Hendrix and former assistant county executive Roxanne White.

The group is making three tiers of recommendations, with the first consisting of items the county should take up in the short-term. Tier two recommendations are items that need more evaluation and tier three are ideas the committee said should no longer be considered.

Former Supervisor Dennis Rooker suggested moving up a review of land use taxation to the first tier. Eliminating land-use taxation could raise up to $16 million a year, according to the committee’s draft report.

“I’m not saying we should make those changes, but that’s where the dollars are,” Rooker said.

Foley said staff has studied ways to alter county’s land-use taxation policy.

“We determined that there could be a lot of tweaking, but it didn’t generate a lot of revenue so the only thing that was left was whether you would want to eliminate it,” Foley said. “It would certainly generate a lot of money but it has other implications.”

The committee decided not to move land use policy up to tier one.

“I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think we can just take all the land use away and you’d get $15.9 million,” said Mark Roberts, managing director of Alveraz & Marsal North America.

Another possibility is to levy an admissions tax on non-sporting events at the John Paul Jones Arena and on movie theaters.

However, Foley said other communities that have put the tax in place don’t raise much revenue.

“Roanoke County, as an example, has an admissions tax that generates about $65,000 a year,” Foley said. “I don’t think we’re going to generate the kind of revenue that’s going to turn the world around.”

If the county wanted to implement such a tax, the General Assembly would need to authorize it.

Roberts said he was frustrated by the inability of Albemarle to control its own purse-strings.

“Quite honestly, I’ve learned through this process that the state ties our hands on doing anything,” Roberts said. “We can’t do anything.”

The county also would need to get enabling authority to increase its meal tax above 4 percent. The city of Charlottesville raised its meals tax to 5 percent this year in order to close a budget gap.

“A lot of it would be paid by people outside coming in,” Rooker said. “The city’s is higher, and equalization would seem to make sense.”

The group also suggested expanding the transient lodging tax to cover room-sharing services.

However, the county must first adopt an ordinance, which could take some time.

“There are a lot of unrecognized AirBnB’s out there everywhere at this point and right now, under our zoning ordinance, most of them are not legal, so it’s not legal for us to impose a tax on them because they’re not legal to exist,” Davis said.

The community development department is looking into the issue, but is currently not scheduled to consider it until early 2017, according to community development director Mark Graham.

The Board of Supervisors will be presented with the information at their meeting Nov. 4. They are expected to discuss the recommendations at their meeting Nov. 11.

Sean Tubbs reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. He can be reached at stubbs@cvilletomorrow.org or (434) 260-0763.
 

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