Supervisors adopt pro-business “action plan”; Call for increased economic development, zero-based budgeting, and reduced property taxes

By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In one of the first actions of the new year, the

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

has adopted an “action plan” that includes new priorities addressing some of the campaign goals of the Board’s two new members. The statement, prepared by Supervisor

Ken Boyd

(Rivanna), lists six points, including building next year’s budget based on a tax rate of 74.2 cents, using a zero-based budgeting process, reducing regulations to promote economic development, and making the extension

Berkmar Drive

a higher transportation priority.

The Board voted 4-2 to adopt the statement, with Supervisors

Ann Mallek

(White Hall) and

Dennis Rooker

(Jack Jouett) voting against.  Boyd,

Lindsay Dorrier


Rodney Thomas


Duane Snow

(Samuel Miller) all supported the action plan.

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The six points included the following:

Boyd handed out the statement shortly after Mallek was elected chair of the board. He said he wanted the plan to be a “blueprint” to capture what the majority of the board wants to achieve in the coming year.

“We are elected because of the ideas and things we put forward for our constituents during the time of election,” Boyd said. He described his action plan as a way to clearly direct staff to pursue the majority’s policy objectives.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker

Rooker said he could not vote for the motion because he needed to discuss the complex concepts further before he could decide whether to support them. On changing the budget assumptions, Rooker said there is not enough information yet on how much revenue the county will be able to generate and how much will come from the state. On Berkmar Drive, he said he would need to know if the road would travel through an expanded growth area vs. its current rural area zoning.

Boyd said Rooker was misinterpreting the action plan and that it was not “approving anything” but rather was intended to provide direction to staff and shape future discussions by the board.

Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier (Scottsville) seconded Boyd’s motion to adopt the action plan.

“I think we’ve all rested on our laurels that Albemarle County has a low unemployment rate and therefore we don’t really tackle the issue of jobs,” Dorrier said.

The county’s unemployment rate in November 2009 was 4.6%, the lowest in the region. Rooker pointed out that is the second lowest in the state.

Rooker said the County should take advantage of the Chamber and TJPED, but added that the County could see the unemployment rate dip further thanks to the expansion of the

National Ground Intelligence Center,

other defense-related jobs and the continued growth of the

University of Virginia

. He warned that the infrastructure might not be present to accommodate the influx of new people.

“There are going to be a lot of school-aged kids in the area, and additional cars on the road,” said Rooker..

Rooker said attracting businesses like the federal government and the University provided stable employers.  He cautioned that other approaches to economic development might attract businesses that could be more easily lost in a future economic downturn.

Supervisors debate zero-based budgeting

Rooker said he wanted to hear from County Executive

Bob Tucker

if it were possible to use the zero-based budgeting approach this year, especially given that the budget has been in development since last fall. He also claimed that few localities actually use the practice.

Supervisor Rodney Thomas (Rio) pointed out that

Greene County

uses zero-based budgeting.

Supervisor Duane Snow (Samuel Miller) said he has been researching zero-based budgeting ever since he began his campaign. He said he felt Rooker was misunderstanding the process.“Basically you go in and say ‘What are our primary needs?’ Then establish those needs and then look to see what you need to fund [them],” Snow said. “And then all the other wants and things you would like to have, they get put on the back-burner until you see if there is any money… I know there are programs and things that we are doing that we don’t need to fund in the economic situation we’re in now.”

Rooker said that was not how he understood zero-based budgeting, and that the process Snow described was how the County was already developing its budgets.

Thomas said he runs his business, a printing company, using zero-based budgeting. He said it means starting with fixed costs and evaluating everything else to see if they should be continued to be funded.

New Chair Ann Mallek

“I don’t want anyone to think we haven’t been looking at this line by line all along,” Mallek said. Tucker said the county experimented with zero-based budgeting in the early 90’s, when three departments developed their budget according to that principle. However, that approach was discarded in favor of a modified form of zero-based budgeting.

“We’re going through every program and every service that every department provides,” Tucker said. He added the approach would require the Board to debate every single line item, which could be a tedious process. Tucker also said he would have a hard time restarting the budget process that is 2.5 weeks from going to the press.

“The staff is going to have to develop and write up each one of these programs,” Tucker said. “There’s a lot of writing involved in the budget, so you understand what these programs mean and what the impacts will be.”

Boyd said he understood Tucker’s concern, and he felt that Board input would come during the scheduled budget work sessions. Tucker said he will come back with more information at the Board’s meeting next Wednesday. He added that information on revenues is changing every day with further reductions in state revenues.

Further discussion and comment

On the topic of the development task force review, Rooker said the Board has poured over the recommendations of the task force, and did not implement some of them because they would cost more money. Boyd had originally called for all of the recommendations to be implemented, but agreed to modify the statement to have those brought back before the board for further review.

Mallek said she could not support the action plan because many of its items had either already been implemented or thoroughly discussed by previous boards. She pointed out that the

Planning Commission

would hear a report on light industrial zoning at its meeting on January 19.

Chamber President Tim Hulbert and Attorney Valerie Long said the Chamber is willing to do its part to promote economic development

Members of the business community were pleased at the adoption of the plan. Representatives of both the Chamber and TJPED indicated their willingness to work with county staff. “Many of the concepts contained within the action plan presented by Ken Boyd are items that the new members of the [board] pursued in their campaign,” said Neil Williamson, executive director of the

Free Enterprise Forum

, in an interview with Charlottesville Tomorrow. “The approval of the action plan is indicative of a shift in focus for Albemarle County.”

However, Jeff Werner of the

Piedmont Environmental Council

said he did not know why a resolution was necessary to get the Chamber and TJPED to work with the County. Albemarle joined both organizations in 2006. Werner said keeping the rural area should be a key economic objective, claiming that the county’s natural areas are a big draw of why both new residents and businesses choose to locate here.

Werner also said the PEC would oppose any effort to expand the county’s growth area.