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Albemarle Supervisors to consider higher tax rate for FY2017 budget
Dean Tistadt, COO of Albemarle County Schools
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Dean Tistadt, COO of Albemarle County Schools
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Sean Tubbs | Tuesday, March 08, 2016 at 9:26 p.m.

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will advertise a 2½-cent increase in the county’s property tax rate for the 2016 calendar year, affirming the amount recommended by county executive Tom Foley.

If adopted by the board after an April 12 public hearing, the tax rate would be 84.4 cents per $100 of assessed value.

“In order to increase the tax rate, you have to advertise that proposed increase 30 days prior to the public hearing on the tax rate,” said county attorney Larry Davis.

Supervisors can approve a lower tax rate if they decide to remove items from the proposed budget.

The board made several decisions Tuesday in their version of the budget.

Last week, supervisors directed staff to find $1 million in the budget for an addition to Woodbrook Elementary School. Staff opted to review the project at its full cost to design, build and operate on an annual basis.

Budget director Lori Allshouse said the addition to double Woodbrook’s capacity to 600 students is estimated at $14 million in capital costs. Staff recommended borrowing an additional $1 million in design costs to the capital program.

That would not further increase the tax rate for fiscal year 2017, but debt service would create a need for a tax rate increase in FY2019.

One supervisor asked if an addition on Woodbrook would be the best approach to meet the county’s needs.  

“I’m all for funding some sort of elementary school expansion, but I feel strongly that a new elementary school is what this community would better respond to,” said Supervisor Brad Sheffield.

Dean Tistadt, the school system’s chief operating officer, said there is currently no site that would work.

“There has been a rezoning submitted that has a proffered site for an elementary school, but we don’t know the outcome of that yet,” Tistadt said. “As we look at certainty of solutions available to us, what we concluded is that we needed to stay with the Woodbrook addition.”

The board agreed to borrow another $1 million in the capital improvement program to pay for the design to move planning forward.

Supervisors also restored funding for the Legal Aid Justice Center.  Budget staff had set aside a $50,000 contingency for a potential trial for convicted murderer Jesse Matthew, but his guilty plea in Albemarle Circuit Court last week removes that need.

From that, the county allocated $38,700 in funds for the nonprofit organization in the current year, and the group increased their request for next year to a total of $68,375, which includes funding for a new program to support immigrant youths.

“There is no other funding for brand-new programs anywhere else in our budget,” Allshouse said.

Both Albemarle and Charlottesville work through a coordinated review process to respond to funding requests from nonprofit organizations.

The Legal Aid Justice Center also asked the city for $108,288 to pay for the four programs, up from $70,630 in the current fiscal year.

However, the Agency Budget Review Team recommended that the county give $11,700 to Legal Aid and that the city only give $18,664.

Supervisors agreed to restore Legal Aid’s funding to the 2016 level but not to support the new program.  They also said they would consider removing the Legal Aid Justice Center from the ABRT process for next year.

“I don’t want to be in this position of continuing to have to talk about Legal Aid and whether or not we’re going to fund it,” said Supervisor Diantha McKeel.

But not all supervisors were on board.

“I have trouble stepping in to fund programs that the ABRT process has not recommended,” said Supervisor Rick Randolph, who suggested other groups that were not funded might petition supervisors for more money.

Supervisors also agreed to fund Charlottesville Area Transit service to Fifth Street Station but stopped short of extending it to the Mill Creek area. That matches a proposal in the Charlottesville’s recommended budget.

Albemarle County will hold four community meetings on the budget beginning at 7 p.m. March 15 in the Jack Jouett Middle School cafeteria. Other events are at 7 p.m. March 17 in the Monticello High School Forum, at 7 p.m. March 23 in the Western Albemarle High School forum and at 7 p.m. April 7 in the North Garden Fire Station.
 

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