By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Wednesday, March  16, 2011

Three members of the

Albemarle Board of Supervisors

said Monday they would support a one cent increase in the real estate property tax to pay for new infrastructure.   However, a motion to advertise the higher rate failed on a 3-3 vote.






Supervisor Duane Snow

“It’s important that we maintain our roads, it’s important that we keep working on our infrastructure,” Supervisor

Duane Snow

said.

Snow was joined in supporting the increased rate by Supervisors

Dennis Rooker

and

Ann Mallek

.  In the face of a deadlock, a second motion to advertise the rate at 74.2 cents per $100 of assessed property value was approved unanimously.

The votes came during a work session to discuss the county’s proposed $18.2 million capital improvement program budget for the next fiscal year. The CIP totals $75.4 million over the next five years, with the majority of funding going to maintenance.

“We do think this proposed program does adequately address our existing infrastructure in terms of maintenance and it includes two critical projects,” said assistant county executive

Bill Letteri

, referring to

a new fire station on Ivy Road

and renovations at Greer Elementary School.

In FY2012, no funding is allocated towards community development projects, such as sidewalks or new roads. There is also no funding for the county to participate in VDOT’s “revenue-sharing” program where county dollars are matched one-to-one with state money.

Part of Governor Bob McDonnell’s transportation package in the recent session of the General Assembly included an increase of funding for the program .

“Not being able to take advantage of the revenue-sharing program is I think extremely imprudent,” Rooker said.

Halfway through the work session, Rooker suggested a one-cent tax increase to raise $1.5 million for capital projects, including participation in VDOT revenue sharing and the construction of a

new library in Crozet

.

“My expectation is that the making of this public investment will help the entirety of downtown Crozet which will then ultimately provide additional tax revenues,” Rooker said.

However, Supervisor

Kenneth C. Boyd

said it was not the time to raise taxes, and predicted that the county would get additional revenue from retail developments such as the former

Albemarle Place

, now known as Stonefield.

“[There are] still a lot of people out of work, and I’m not at a place where I want to increase taxes to pay for a Crozet library,” Boyd said.

Rooker argued that by raising additional revenues to pay for the project now, the county would save money by taking advantage of lower interest rates and lower construction costs. But Boyd, who has made the same argument in advocating for speedy construction of a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, was not persuaded.

“In businesses and our personal lives, we all have lost opportunity costs,” Boyd said. “I agree it’s unfortunate but we don’t have the money right now. I don’t want to put that burden on taxpayers… I think we can weather through it and still move forward as this economy turns around.”

Supervisor

Rodney Thomas

said he agreed with Boyd.

“I think it’s time to tighten our belts maybe a bit more, and hold it tight for a while longer,” Thomas said.

Supervisor

Lindsay Dorrier

said he could not support the increase because too many people are on fixed incomes and can’t absorb the additional tax.

“The public seems to support [staying at 74.2 cents] because they certainly didn’t come out at the public hearing,” Dorrier said.

But Snow said he could support the increase.

“For that one cent we can add jobs back into the community to help some of these people that are out of work,” Snow said.

With a 3-3 stalemate, Mallek asked Boyd, Thomas and Dorrier if any of them would support an equalized rate of 75 cents, which would bring in the same amount of revenue as the current fiscal year.

A 74.2 cent tax actually results in a tax decrease for most property owners because of declining property values. Once the board votes to advertise a tax rate, it can only be decreased, not increased before the adoption of the budget.

Thomas said he wanted to keep the rate as is, and Boyd and Dorrier agreed. A motion by Rooker to adopt an equalized tax rate also failed.

However, that does not necessarily mean the county will not participate in VDOT’s revenue sharing program.

Staff had presented the board with the option of setting aside $448,000 in FY12 to pay for operating costs at the new Ivy fire station when it opens in FY13.

Rooker suggested, however, that the money should be used to ensure the county could participate in VDOT revenue sharing.

Also at the work session, the Board agreed to make a one-time payment of $5,000 to the

Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society

to support the

Hatton Ferry

. They also agreed to authorize a half-time employee at the Crozet Library. The library had asked for a full-time employee at a cost of nearly $31,000.

Many other capital projects loom on the horizon, such as the potential need for a new complex to house the county’s court system. In May, the board will hold a work session on long-term funding strategies for that and other capital projects.


TIMELINE FOR PODCAST #1:


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TIMELINE FOR PODCAST #2:


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