Melissa Barlow listens as Supervisor Rooker explains the County’s funding crisis

At their latest meeting on September 5, 2008, the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) working group primarily discussed how to address a funding request from the Thomas Jefferson District Planning Commission (TJPDC).  In June, the TJPDC asked for an additional $25,000 from each jurisdiction in order to cover expenses related to the RTA.

At the previous work group meeting on August 29, 2008

, the elected officials asked the TJPDC’s Director of Transportation Programs, Melissa Barlow, for a detailed budget on how the TJPDC would spend the money.

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The bulk of the funding request would go to pay for a share of TJPDC salaries throughout the end of the fiscal year. Barlow estimated she would spend 300 hours of her time, 100 hours of a TJPDC planner’s time, as well as 150 hours for Legislative Liaison David Blount. Barlow said this work would be above and beyond what she and her staff already do for the MPO Policy Board. Barlow and Legislative Liaison David Blount also recommended that the TJPDC spend up to $10,000 on an outside lobbyist to help pass the enabling legislation in the next General Assembly session.

Working group members questioned the figures provided by Barlow.  City Councilor

Satyendra Huja

asked why the budget had not been reduced given that the working group has requested that the cost be lowered by using City and County legal and public relations staff to perform some of the work.  Supervisor

David Slutzky

(Rio) asked Barlow for a clarification of what work she would not be doing for the MPO as a result of working long hours for the RTA.  Barlow responded that the MPO is busy developing its next long-range plan (

UNJAM 2035

), and that the staff-time allotted for MPO staff to work with the RTA is running out. Barlow also pointed out that the TJPDC is currently without an executive director since

Harrison Rue resigned earlier this year

. Acting Executive Director Billie Campbell also pointed out that the TJPDC received less funding for the MPO in the current fiscal year.

“We’re trying to support our staff but we have to have revenue to do the work that we do,” Campbell said. She added that the TJPDC is currently seeking to hire new staff to supplement its work in community development.

Slutzky asked Blount if the extra work he was being asked to do would be above and beyond what he would be doing anyway next January. Blount said he would be providing much of the same legislative support anyway, but Campbell reminded the RTA working group that Blount is the legislative representative for all of the localities that make up the TJPDC and not just Charlottesville and Albemarle County.


Dave Norris

asked how important it was to hire an outside lobbyist. Blount said that depended on how much effort the City and County want to give to the initiative. He said that Henrico County spent $25,000 on a law firm several years ago in order to obtain the ability to levy impact fees, an effort that failed. He said that even if City or County attorneys write the legislation, efforts need to be made to get the bill introduced.


Dennis Rooker

(Jack Jouett) said he was not sure how much additional work needed to be done on the RTA, and that the working group did not need to hold many more meetings. He could only see two subjects for future meetings – meeting with the

Funding Options Working Group

to begin obtaining public support and meeting with legislators to gain their support.

“I don’t see us running up all these [TJPDC staff] hours from here going forward. I think the primary effort should be legislative,” Rooker said. “I don’t know that we have that many more decisions to make among us.”

The group settled on a figure of $7,000 in additional funding from both the City and the County to support TJPDC’s RTA-related efforts through the end of the calendar year.  Both Council and the Board of Supervisors are expected to take up the measure at their next meetings. A decision on whether to hire an outside lobbyist will be made at a further meeting.

Barlow suggested that if the General Assembly does not grant enabling authority for the RTA, the TJPDC could be used to help develop public support for any other alternative. Rooker said that if that were to occur, the “entire game plan” for the RTA would change.

The RTA working group will next meet on

Friday, September 19, 2008

with representatives of the Funding Options Working Group in the CitySpace meeting room in the Market Street Parking Garage.

Sean Tubbs


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