By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Charlottesville City Council has held the first of several work sessions to review the proposed $140 million budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2011.

“I don’t want to say this budget is boring, but it’s not exactly the most exciting budget,” said Budget Director Leslie Beauregard. “It’s obviously not growing as much as past ones have, but I think we’ve managed to get a few new things in here.”

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Beauregard projects 1.16% increase in revenue from real property taxes, a 1.36% increase from sales taxes, a 3.44% rise from the meals tax and a 7.47% increase from the transient room tax.

“All of these are good indicators that maybe the economy is starting to pick up again,” Beauregard said. “I don’t think we’re being overly optimistic. I think we’re being a bit cautious in how we project our revenues.”

However, Beauregard projects a decrease in revenue from the cigarette tax due to changing habits.

“In a sense you can look at this as a blessing in disguise because people are smoking less, or they’re going to the county because they don’t have a cigarette tax,” Beauregard said.

One uncertainty is how much money funding will come from the state. Beauregard

pointed out that since FY08, state-aid had dropped by 16%.

Of the county’s $18 million revenue-sharing payment, the city will use $12.663 million to fund the operating budget. $4.359 million goes to the capital improvement program budget and the rest will go towards replacement and repair funds. Last year the city only used half of the revenue-sharing payment for operating funds.

It has become common practice for a pool of money to be set aside for Council to use throughout the year for new initiatives. The current year’s budget set aside $265,000 for such ventures. Beauregard said council has about $50,000 remaining in the current year’s pool.

Mayor Dave Norris wanted to know what happened to the $100,000 set aside to study new recycling options, and the $110,000 set aside to implement changes to the transit system. Beauregard said she would have an answer on the recycling funding at a future work session.

City Manager Maurice Jones said the transit money was still in reserve pending the results of the transit development plan being put together with help from the Connetics Transportation Group.

Councilor Holly Edwards said she wanted to see if the $100,000 could be spent to hire an outside consultant to “look at how things could be changed differently.”

City Councilor Kristin Szakos

Both she and Councilor Kristin Szakos expressed dissatisfaction with the work produced by Connetics, which was unveiled to them at a work session earlier this month.

“We didn’t get everything out of that that we thought we were going to get,” Edwards said.

“We got some good ideas and I think what it did mostly was affirm for us that our transit system is a good one,” Edwards said, “But what is it that we can do to bring things to the next level?”

City Councilor David Brown said he was uncomfortable with how the council’s initiative pool has grown.

“When I got on Council, there was a little bit of money so we could tinker around the edges with what had come through the process,” Brown said. “And now it’s grown to be a quarter of a million dollars. I worry that implies that we have a fair amount of money to initiate new programs.”



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