Tax time: City budget holds, county raises the rate

Here's how the executives running Charlottesville and Albemarle describe their proposed budgets in three words.

"Schools, schools, schools," says city manager Maurice Jones, looking at funneling an additional $3.4 million over last year to city schools.

"Half-smile budget," says county executive Tom Foley, whose proposed "equalization" property tax increase of 2.2 cents per $100 does not have everyone smiling.

Foley's recommended $311.7 million budget for fiscal year 2012/2013 adds $7.3 million in spending– a 2.4 percent increase– to a budget he says is less than the county's 2008/2009 budget. That was the year the housing market crash and reduced property tax assessments were just beginning.

Foley insists the equalized tax rate of 76.4 cents per $100 is one in which the average property owner's tax bill won't increase, thanks to the continuing drop in home property values. "This is the fourth year without a tax increase," he says. "For two years we actually reduced taxes about $100." That would be those plunging home values again. 

"It's a misperception that the equalized tax rate is an equal burden on everyone," says soon-to-step-down Jefferson Area Tea Party chair Carol Thorpe, who says the plan is more to equalize revenues for the county. "When times are bad and families are having a difficult time, the tax rate should remain the same or be lowered."

"We are seeing some modest recovery," says Foley. Revenues have increased on sales, meals, and personal property taxes, he says. And going after delinquent taxpayers brought in an additional $3 million.

Foley's "half-smile budget" looks to the future after austerity moves that eliminated 65 to 70 county staff positions. "We've been hunkered down the past four years," he says.

The proposed budget puts money into new facilities, like the Ivy fire and rescue station, expected to open in July 2013, a new EMS facility in Pantops that uses Martha Jefferson Hospital as its base, a police firing range, and moving forward on the Crozet library.

The budget includes a 1 percent raise for county employees, along with a 25 percent increased Virginia Retirement System contribution. Money is allocated for eight firefighter positions to staff the new Ivy station, as well as three positions in finance. And there's $1.5 million the Board of Supervisors can use at their discretion.

At a February 29 public hearing on the proposed budget, Albemarle Truth in Taxation and Jefferson Area Tea Party members balked at the increased tax rate. Without the increase, says Foley, there would be "significant cuts."

One drop in Albemarle spending no one in the county is complaining about: its revenue-sharing contribution to Charlottesville for not annexing, which dropped from $18.1 million last year to $17.5 million in the proposed budget.

Charlottesville looks to raise its spending two percent in its proposed $146.2 million fiscal year 2012/2013 budget, and keeps the 95 cents per $100 property tax rate the same.

Its biggest unplanned for expense is $3.4 million to shore up the schools' budget shortfall. "We're using one-time money on the schools to close their gap, but we can't continue doing that," says Jones.

And the city must contribute $1.5 million to the Virginia Retirement System for school employees– but not for city employees, whose retirement is self-funded by the city.

City employees, who got a two percent raise last year, will see a three percent one-time bonus in the proposed budget. Citing uncertain real estate revenues, says Jones, "We don't want to tie ourselves down."

Although Nest Realty reports single family home prices in Charlottesville have dropped 33 percent, the city budget's projected residential tax revenues are down just three percent, says Jones, and things are looking better on the commercial real estate side, where new construction has seen a boost.

Jones, who owns a house in Albemarle County, says he hasn't gotten any flak about not contributing to the city's real estate tax base.  "I'm looking," he says. "One way or the other, I'll be living in the city by this summer, either as an owner or a renter."

Charlottesville will contribute to the police firing range, and has a new park in Belmont– Rives Park– among its capital expenditures.

"We continue to protect quality service, have no significant cuts, and haven't had to raise taxes," says Jones. "That's all positive."


Just go ahead and buy the man a house in the city already.

I attended the public meeting for the Ivy fire station. At that time my husband questioned Duane Snow as to where the money is coming from to pay for the new facility and its staff. Snow responded, "we've been planning for this within the budget for years". At the same meeting, there was a pitch from Alb Cnty Fire and Rescue for volunteers to fill out the staffing for that station. It's obvious that 8 paid firefighter/EMTs will not be able to cover the staffing needs, although that's what was included in the "cost of the station". At that time they were looking for 40 men and women volunteers. If they don't get these 40 volunteers the staffing expenses will go up significantly. We were unable to get a real $$ figure from any official at the meeting for this project. Dan Eggelston's focus in presenting information about the new station was on the cost benefits of refitting a building which the county is leasing from UVA for the station. I expect the real cost of creating and operating this station will be substantially more than we have been lead to believe. Prepare to have your property taxes go up again next year to cover the difference.
In case you're wondering, I'm not against a new fire station being established. In understand the new city station on Fontaine Ave altering the response areas for the county EMS system. I am curious about a decision to put the IVY fire station in Charlottesville rather than in Ivy. it appears the station will serve the Farmington/Boars Head areas well, but leave a lot of homes in the Ivy area still within the response area for the Crozet station.
I am extremely frustrated that county officials seem willing to "figure it out as they go along" when it comes to spending our tax dollars. There should be a clear financial plan for the cost of the new fire station. but there is not.

I think they should not increase the tax rate at all - especially when they cannot prove on how such high taxes would be used. Like for texas real estate continuing ed where they keep their prices low and assure that their clients are getting the most out of what they need.

Hey Reader, its time the county residents started feeling the true cost of all the development and sprawl going on. You can't get away with riding on the city's assets. Now you are feeling it, you'll vote better next time, for those who understand more efficient growth, and reasonable development. Tons of commercial space available in the county, yet they are continuing to build new commercial spaces.

Well said, Caesonia.

"Property owner's tax bill won't increase, THANKS to the continuing drop in home property values" Nice that Foley is happy to see homeowners under water on their mortgage. When will tax payers come to realize that spending must be cut on local and federal levels to get out of this recessive economy and elect and appoint officials that understand that. New fire stations means more emergency vehicles which have to be maintained and more firefighters that need benefits and retirement to sit around all day in the station except for when they take the vehicles out for lunch and waste gas. How many actual fires are there a year anyway? Why does Crozet need a library? Who uses a library with the internet available? That is more building maintenance and employees with benefits. Why does the school board spend 120K on meals during its meetings? How many additional students are there to teach now as compared to 10 years ago and how does the teacher student ratio compare to the past. When will the working 50% that is supporting the nonworking entitled 50% get fed up and head into seclusion. Who is John Galt?

You know County Farmer, I find I can agree with you, and then you go all right wing spin and start pointing fingers in the wrong direction. Its things like the "50% who don't work." You know, its amazing how all my working life, I was a net contributor to the Federal Treasury, even when I was in school working part time, while those with far more income, but a mortgage, and some kids, weren't contributing. Was I being supported? Well, maybe, but I was certainly paying the way for that family, wasn't I? You can work and not contribute, and you can be working less while bettering yourself, and still be contributing. Then there are all those taxes we pay when not paying Federal taxes, like gas tax, and sales tax, and utilities tax, and on and on.

Perhaps if you spent a little less time spinning right wing dogma, and sat back and used the head you had to understand how the tax code has been loaded to favour certain subsets while punishing others, we might actually come up with a far more feasible and palatable solution.

Because you know what? I am sick and tired of paying for the Left's children and Right's contractor/oil wars. At least the Left isn't trying to shrink the government to the point of being able to fit in bedroom, like the Right is.

The school board members need to get off the food stamps, so does the City Council. I don't care if it's "just chips and sandwiches". Buy your own food, don't make me buy it for you!

What about the "working retreats" at places like Wintergreen? A leisure and recreation break veiled as work; plain and simple.

" I am sick and tired of paying for the Left's children"
It isn't the "Left" that's pumping out too many babies. It's people who think that's what their magic friend wants.

"We exalt Jesus Christ as Lord, and acknowledge His headship in all areas of our lives, including fertility. We exist to serve those believers who trust the Lord for family size, and to answer the questions of those seeking truth in this critical area of marriage.

Dedicated to providing encouragement and practical help to those who are striving to raise a large and growing, godly family in today's world!"

Genesis 1:28 "Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

I love these apologetic, self-loathing statements, as if some compararative explanation is warranted:
1. "This budget is less than the county's 2008/2009 budget." Who cares? They cut 65 positions as though that is some sacrifice. That's like the "Biggest Loser" dropping 28 lbs. from 480 lbs. and claiming some huge accomplishment. Come back to me when you have kept the weight off!
2. "This is the fourth year w/o a tax increase." Another low-self esteem comment that means nothing. It presumes that no tax increase is somehow a treat, an aberration. It assumes the public should be happy; kind of like the "let them eat cake" thing from that babe in France.
3. And the arrogance of Jones, with the "one way I will be living in the city this summer." As if he is blind to the fact that he is overpaid, underworked and in violation (and also contributing the budget woes by not paying RE taxes in the city.

Oh, to have James Halfaday on council!

R.I.P.: Wendy O. Williams

There are too many people in the world. It's ridiculous for any family to have more than 1 or 2. The quiverfull/dominionist approach is misguided, not to mention ecologically ruinious.

Dawg, JWG's comment above shows just what sort of people fall for the quiverfull nonsense. You've seen his other efforts I'm sure. A Hebrew rewrite of Babylonian fairy tales is no guide for living on a planet with 7 billion other occupants.

Can you teach a Dawg math? I'll try. Take your proposal of everyone having "1 or 2" children, and average that to 1.5. Then consider that it takes two people who are going to die someday to produce 1.5 children. That's a population loss of one half of a person per generation (compounded every generation). And that's assuming everyone who is born has children, which is not the case. That would cause the total extinction of the human population in short order. Is that what you're advocating? In the good ol USA our population replacement rate is already below 2 people. I'll give you a biscuit if you can tell me what that means!

When U.T. Austin biology professor Eric Pianka gave a speech to the student body he said h everyone needs to be killed to save the Earth, and the killing needs to start now. He said A.I.D.S. didn't work quick enough and said airborne Ebola would be an ideal method. He got a standing ovation from his students. One even said he worshipped Pianka. Guess who's' students are now working in level four+ government bioweapons laboratories? Eric Pianka's. So be careful what you wish for, just remember as blood and pus are pouring out of your ears and eyeballs that someone tried to warn you.

@John Walton, ever hear of Zero Population Growth? It's a good thing. The fewer humans there are on the earth, the more resources will remain. A uterus is not a clown car, regardless of what that Duggar woman and her husband think.

@saywha?, "A Hebrew rewrite of Babylonian fairy tales is no guide for living on a planet with 7 billion other occupants" captures it perfectly!

RIP Dr. Kevorkian

So go hook yourself up to a death machine, Dawg!

"Jones, who owns a house in Albemarle County, says he hasn't gotten any flak about not contributing to the city's real estate tax base."

The city charter violating and therefor most likely invalid contract that he's working under is exactly the sort of thing that our Atty. General OUGHT to be giving flak about. The issue isn't that he owns a house in the county, it's that he is not a city resident as the charter requires. The legal ramifications of executive orders coming from an illegitimate executive might be pivotal in a court case someday. Is he even qualified to vote on the dam etc. if his contract is invalid?

If the city and county is hard up for money why don't they look at all of the money they give to the Convention and Conference to subsidize hotel and restaurant advertising? It should be obvious that there are not that many conferences held here and few if any conventions. The way it is set up now this visitor's group gets a share of all of the rooms that are rented out to people who come here escaping bad weather, attending a football or basketball game, attending graduations, or supporting the Book, Film and Photography festivals. Why? Does either the County or the City have data supporting that the Convention and Conference people have actually made a significant difference in the number of people who are actually visiting here or is the increases the lodging tax due mainly to growth at UVA and an increase in entertainment venues?

Me thinks it has become obvious that city and county officials do not represent the bests interests of the local citizenry. Not by a long shot. Too much money, too many special interests, (like dams), and too many under the table late night agreements. agreements. The answer? Obviously voting people out means voting like minded boobs in so the ballot box doesn't work. How about a fraud czar?

County Farmer whines that " spending must be cut on local and federal levels to get out of this recessive economy and elect and appoint officials that understand that."

I wonder if County Farmer is in favor of cutting local and/or state and federal subsidies that support him? Is County Farmer saying he want the feds to cut the mortgage interest subsidy? Has County Farmer already picked up the phone or sent an e-mail to the county Board of Supervisors asking board members to eliminate the county's land use tax subsidies (a subsidy that County Farmer gets)?

Or is County Farmer just a conservative hypocrite?