By Sean Tubbs
Friday, February 26, 2010
Albemarle County Executive
has unveiled a budget for FY2011 that is 3.4% less than the current year, and 11.9% less than that for FY2009. The proposed budget of $293.8 million is based on a 74.2 cent tax rate, though lower property assessments translate into a projected $1.9 million reduction in revenue from property taxes.
Listen using player above or download the podcast:
“The budget confronts the difficult realities of reshaping our organization while attempting to establish reasonable expectations for local government services in a time of significantly reduced revenues,” Tucker told the Board at a briefing on Thursday. “Balancing this budget creates very difficult choices that will change the nature of our service levels and funding support in fundamental ways.”
Revenues from all sources are down. Real estate tax revenues will decrease because property values have declined by 3.18%. Sales tax revenues are down 11.4%, or $1.4 million. There have also been decreases in both state funding and personal property tax.
Tucker has proposed an operating budget of $266.5 million, a capital budget of $8 million, and $18.5 million in revenue sharing funds for the City of Charlottesville. Tucker also suggests an $800,000 shortfall contingency fund in case revenues are lower than expected.
The various cuts continue a restructuring that Tucker says the county has been working towards since the economic downturn began in 2007. With a total of 78 positions either frozen or eliminated since 2007, Albemarle will have as many local government employees as it did in 2002.
Among those 78 positions are 5 police officers. The County has a goal of having 1.5 officers per 1,000 residents, but the actual ratio is closer to 1.2 according to Bryan Elliot, the county’s assistant county executive for community services.
“This action is translating into increased response times for both urban and rural parts of the county to priority-one calls,” Elliot said.
At least one position has been unfrozen. Deputy County Executive Tom Foley said a “business auditor” will be restored in order to track down unpaid taxes. The move is one recommendation from a efficiency study conducted last year by the Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University. Additionally, a building inspector will be reassigned to staff the county’s new land use revalidation program.
Affordable housing initiatives will be reduced with the County saving $190,000 by eliminating its down payment assistance program. A housing counselor position has also been cut, and rental subsidies for the Wood’s Edge apartment complex will be phased out.
However, some expenditures had to be increased due to state mandates and other cost increases, including a $203,450 increase in funding for the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Last year, the SPCA argued that both Charlottesville and Albemarle were not paying their fair share to the agency, which is the region’s official animal shelter. The county will also pay an additional $426,000 in employee health and dental benefits.
Supervisors had little comment after the briefing. Supervisor
(White Hall) called the budget “sobering news.” Supervisor
(Rivanna) said he needed to time to reflect before he could make a comment.
Members of the public can weigh in with their thoughts on the proposed budget at a public hearing to be held next Wednesday at 6:00 PM in Lane Auditorium. After that, the Board will hold a series of work sessions to amend Tucker’s proposed budget before its adoption in early April.
TIMELINE FOR PODCAST: