The

Charlottesville City Council

has reaffirmed a plan to seek enabling legislation to levy a one-cent sales tax increase in order to fund enhanced transit as well as road projects in both Charlottesville and Albemarle County. A majority on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has also

indicated their support for such a plan

, which would raise as much as $26 million dollars a year. The primary beneficiary would be the Regional Transit Authority (RTA), which would assume control of the Charlottesville Transit Service.


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Council’s reaffirmation came at their meeting on September 15, 2008. Two Councilors are serving on the working group guiding the work of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) as enabling legislation for both the RTA and the sales-tax increase is crafted. The RTA working group wanted to make sure that both elected bodies supported the sales tax increase in advance of the working group’s next meeting on September 19, 2008. That’s when members of the Transportation Funding Options Working Group will meet with the RTA working group to discuss the legislation.






This chart depicts the many funding options available to Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Click through for a larger version (Source: TJPDC)


The RTA working group has also discussed the possibility of a fall-back position for a funding mechanism for the RTA if the General Assembly declines to allow a sales-tax increase. This would involve seeking some of the same sources of revenue that were enabled in HB3202, which created multi-jurisdictional transportation authorities in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. The legislation allowed those areas to raise money from multiple sources, including an increased sales tax on gasoline, grantor’s tax, motor vehicle rental taxes, transient occupancy taxes, as well as additional fees on cars.


The Virginia Supreme Court ruled in February

that it was unconstitutional to grant taxation powers to Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads authorities, because the governing bodies did not consist solely of elected officials. Under this region’s RTA, the power to tax and grant fees would rest solely with City Council and the Board of Supervisors. Revenues would be passed over to the RTA for both its operating and capital budgets. Some funding may be used by both jurisdictions for road projects such as the Fontaine-Sunset Connector, Hillsdale Drive, or the proposed Berkmar Drive extension up to Hollymead Town Center.

Councilor

Satyendra Huja

, who serves on the RTA working group, said he favors the sales tax rather than what he called the “grab-bag” approach made available under HB3202.

Councilor

Julian Taliaferro

agreed with Huja, and said that increasing fees on cars and trucks would not be fair. Councilor

David Brown

said homeowners should not have to bear the cost of additional transit. He added that he thought it was unlikely the General Assembly would grant Charlottesville and Albemarle County any additional power to raise money.

“But I’m hopeful that we can get in place a structure for a regional transit authority because I do believe that in the next few years there is going to be more money for transit,” Brown said. He urged the two communities to take a long-term view towards solving its transportation problems.

Sean Tubbs

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