By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Last September,

the Charlottesville City Council traveled to Staunton

to develop a list of priorities for action over the next several years. On September 29, 2009, they received an update on how their strategic vision is being implemented during a work session held in the basement conference room at City Hall.

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Preparing for FY2011 budget cycle

Preparation is already underway for building a City budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2010. City Manager

Gary O’Connell

said detailed reports on finances will come in the next few months as staff prepares the budget. He said the uncertainty over the extent of state cutbacks make it difficult for a full revenue picture to develop.

“It’s a moving, changing picture,” O’Connell said. “The state clearly is going to be making some big budget reductions that I suspect will surprise and impact us in ways we can’t anticipate.”

The City set aside a $2.8 million reserve to withstand potential state cutbacks in the current year’s budget. O’Connell reported that revenues for the current fiscal year are “flat, but meeting projections.” He said that sales tax revenue for the City of Charlottesville has actually been higher than expected, even though sales tax revenue continues to be down in Albemarle County.

The biggest source of revenue for Charlottesville comes from property taxes. O’Connell said City Assessor Roosevelt Barbour Jr. has told him to expect flat assessments for the coming year.

O’Connell warned Council that it will be much tougher to balance the budget next year. He said he had met with

County Executive Bob Tucker

, who told him that the County will be announcing program cuts and layoffs in the coming weeks.

“I think all of their revenues are way under what they had budgeted,” O’Connell said. “And they didn’t set reserves aside. I think they’re in a very different position.”

Work session provides opportunity for Council to give new directions on infrastructure

The Council’s “Connected Community” priority seeks to increase mobility in Charlottesville through public transportation and bike/pedestrian trails. After hearing a very short briefing on current ridership figures, Councilor

David Brown

suggested that new consultants be brought in to study the way Charlottesville Transit Service routes are organized. City Councilor

Satyendra Huja

agreed, and said the City should hire a consultant with no prior work experience in the community.

Huja said the problem with the existing system is that routes are not frequent enough to attract ridership, and that there is not enough service in the northern parts of the City. Mayor Dave Norris said he would support such a consultant.

CTS Director

Bill Watterson

said he will be making a report to Council on November 2, 2009, which will address potential ways CTS could evolve. Council also agreed in principle to spend its share of whatever will be required to rehire Frank Spielberg to work further on

Regional Transit Authority

with Albemarle County.

Councilor Brown asked what progress the City has made to build more sidewalks. Jim Tolbert, Director of the

Neighborhood Development Services Department

, told him that although there was a hiatus in sidewalk construction last year, the City has been spending about $400,000 a year to design, build and manage sidewalks. Tolbert said his staff will update the priority list and present it to the Planning Commission before the end of the year.

Huja asked if there was a way to connect all of the various bike and pedestrian trails to improve the City’s network. Acting Parks Director Bryan Daly said that City Council will soon be asked in closed session to consider key land purchases to do just that.

“A lot of stuff is about to pop loose in the very near future,” Daly said. “There’s a lot of parcels that are kind of in flux, but this will get us a long way.”

Councilor Huja challenges staff to plant more trees

Another of Council’s objectives was to attain a tree canopy of at least 40%. That goal

has already been reached

, but the

Charlottesville Planning Commission

is looking at ways to go even further.

Councilor Satyendra Huja challenged the parks department to plant 500 trees by this time next year. Daly said it would be difficult to make that goal.

“We can plant 500 seedlings in the next three weeks, but you’re only going to have 20% to 25% survivability,” Daly said. He said tree plantings would be concentrated on the City’s entrance corridors and downtown.

Councilor Brown said he would like to see a program developed where the City offers to plant trees on private property, particularly in areas of town where the tree canopy does not meet the City’s goals. He proposed a “tree commission” to determine evaluate applications from residents.



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