Grim budget: Albemarle picks austerity to hold tax rate

news-bob-tucker1After years of boom times, Albemarle County Executive Bob Tucker presents a diminished budget for the second year in a row, this one 12 percent less than two years ago.
PHOTO BY LISA PROVENCE

With the University of Virginia as the big employer in town, Albemarle County has often been thought to be sheltered from the financial pain other parts of the country are suffering. The fiscal year 2010-11 budget County Exec Bob Tucker unveiled February 25 dispels that notion.

Tucker's $293,850,901 budget is $10.3 million trimmer than last year and nearly $40 million less than fiscal year 2008-09.

The good news for homeowners is that the property tax rate holds steady at 74.2 cents per $100, so while homes lost value in the county on average 3.96 percent, at least those tax bills will be a few bucks less.

The bad news: All those best-place-to-live attributes of which this area boasts, like good schools and conservation-minded practices? Well, those aren't looking as rosy.

In the past, Albemarle's more liberal leaning supes might have upped the tax rate to maintain a balance in revenues. But with the election of Republicans Duane Snow and Rodney Thomas to the board last fall, the balance of power shifted, and in January the board commanded Tucker to come up with a balanced budget using the existing tax rate.

And Tucker is sure to point out that with the $18.5 million in "revenue-sharing" the county has to pay to Charlottesville (to prevent annexation), the county's tax rate is effectively 62.6 cents per $100– one of the lowest in Virginia.

The new, more conservative board also mandated zero-based budgeting, but Tucker says that's not really a radical idea for the county. "The impression is that we take last year's budget and just add an increase," he says. "We've always done a modified zero-based budget."

While no layoffs are on the horizon, 78 positions are frozen, eliminated, or offset. "We're back to 2002 levels in staffing," notes Tucker, noting that for the second year in a row, Albemarle employees will not be seeing a raise.

He pledges to maintain core services–- those essential to health and public safety.

Hard-hit real estate construction has in turn hit the county agency in charge of that. Community Development has frozen, eliminated, or shifted 28 positions, with some of those staff members moving to Social Services, where business is booming because of need.

Funding for all new capital programs is ix-nayed, so forget new libraries, schools, or fire stations for the next five years.

A five percent cut to the Jefferson-Madison Regional Libraries caused an uproar a few weeks ago and had library officials threatening to close the Scottsville and Crozet branches. "This budget does not recommend closing any libraries," says Tucker, who says he'd prefer to see the $158,657 in cuts spread throughout the library system.

Likewise, Albemarle Housing Improvement Program, Jefferson Area Board for Aging, and Piedmont Virginia Community College all get five percent cuts as well.

Community agencies have avoided the knife for the past two years, says Tucker, but this year that wasn't possible. Cultural events like the Virginia Film Festival, the Festival of the Book, and Ash-Lawn Opera will see 10 percent cuts totaling $7,926–- relatively small amounts for the county, but more devastating for the nonprofits.

For Albemarle Truth in Taxation Alliance president Keith Drake, the budget is a step in the right direction.

"While it may appear they're holding the tax rate, they're actually lowering it because assessments went down," he says. "A lot of people are out of work, and the average savings of $60 is small, but sadly meaningful."

And, says Drake, between 2000 and 2008, homeowners saw double-digit tax increases.

The recommended spending for schools is $140.5 million, but the School Board is looking for about $8 million more.

The school funding amount "takes us back to 2006 level," says Drake. "The percentage of increases in student enrollment and inflation has been negligible. While the cuts may be painful, they're not catastrophic."

With Albemarle's main sources of revenue–- property and personal taxes, sales taxes and state funding–- all down, Tucker acknowledges that things are not likely to get better anytime soon.

"This is not a quick turnaround recession," he says. "We're not bouncing back like we did in the '90s when we'd be down for a year and then come back."

The first public hearing is March 3, and work sessions continue through March. The Board of Supervisors will finalize the tax rate April 7.

67 comments

Yepper, you sound smart. What non-critical budget items should be in the Tier 3 cuts rather than what they currently have listed there? Apparently there ARE people think that PE, music, and art are in fact not critical -- expendable, frills -- and can be cut without it being "catastrophic." You maybe disagree? If so, what should be in Tiers 1, 2, and 3 instead?

You're right, yepper, this article doesn't talk about public sector employees whining. Some readers are so deeply invested in their scorn for these fellow citizens that they read it into any and every story about the county budget.

Which is too bad, because there's more than enough interesting material here to discuss. Instead of the thirty-millionth iteration of "lazy government workers like it or lump it let's all bow before our one true god, the private sector."

Speedbump, government employees are indeed told that their health insurance premiums are going up, they are not going to get a pay raise this year, and therefore their actual take-home pay is going down. So what?

In the private sector an employee is told they are laid off after 25 years on the job, the company is going out of business after 113 years, they now have NO health insurance whatsoever any longer, and their take home pay is now whatever unemployment insurance might pay them.

If you don't see the difference, and you can't realize government employees should be thankful they still even have a job, I just can't make it any clearer without taking pictures of a family being tossed out of their home during a foreclosure and mailing them to you.

re:"I have a solution. Let’s raise taxes and give them all a %5 raise this year."

A solution to what, exactly?

Gasbag, your are either intentionally missing speedbump's point or you aren't comprehending for some other reason.

No public employee has said that they aren't grateful for their job, so where did YOUR comment come from? your own mind, that's where.

Speedbump is merely stating a fact. When bad things happen, it is human nature to make note of it. The notion that other people have it worse off often does occur to people, but that does not negate what happened.

That said, there aren't any public employees crying about not having raises that I've seen, so where are you getting this? Please don't respond with, "in my several decades of cop shoppe donut-eating, I didn't witness a single significant act of public service by any public employee ever."

Instead, why don't you comment on what people are actually saying instead of making up this IMAGINARY county employee complaining about not getting a raise?

Mr. Tucker merely pointed out the FACT that county employees aren't getting a raise. You then claim people are whining about it. No one's whining that I've seen except you.

I have an idea,

STEP ONE: list every government job out there at 20% less with no retirement and half the health care and see how many qualified people line up for the jobs. If you get no applications readvertise upwards until you have 5 qualified choices for any particular job.

STEP TWO: Replace the current people with the people who would be happy with the new job.

This is all business does,they have massive layoffs and then "rehire" people at lower costs.

You are only worth what it would take to replace you. Nothing more and nothing less. If you cannot stomach that then go into business for yourself and then you will make exactly what your worth.

Penelope, I had to stop and think hard about what you said. You are correct. Just pulling a job out of the hat to use as an example... there's dozens of qualified people out there who would take Ric Barrick's or Lee Catlin's "press spokesperson" jobs for half of the current salary. And a few would probably accept the job without the attractive benefits package.

speedbump your point is reasonable and I would not suggest thst my advice be implmented. It was merely to point out that there are a lot of peole who compare their pay to others and feel cheated when the reality is that most people can be replaced for less than they currnetly charge their employers to work there.

Otherwise they would change jobs.

Working in the local schools, but not a school employee, has given me the opportunity to see first hand the waste in ACPS. Closets full of supplies bought and being wasted, heat running full blast in trailer classrooms sitting empty, doors proped open with heat blasting, computers being replaced after only three years (my UVA laptop is over 5 years old and is just fine for the work of an educator (I'm not a physicist) and so much more.

I could fill your computer with examples. I know saving a thousand dollars here and five hundred dollars there doesn't make up for millions of dollars but it adds up.

There has been so much waste while the economy was good that now it is biting the school administrators in the butt, as a concrete example:

The budget spreadsheet says that $350,000 dollars a year can be saved by refining bus routes and getting rid of deadhead miles. So if we had done this three years ago we would have saved $1 million dollars already. Getting off their duffs a few years ago would have paid for a lot of art, music and PE.

I say, yet again, real estate taxes for churches. If it's to be separation of church and state then why subsidize churches? Why should I pay my - and THEIR - share? If they want to be responsible citizens then let them contribute their share!

I also believe a few pennies of a tax increase - dedicated solely to the schools - is not a bad idea. Good schools are important, and whether or not we increase taxes to make up for the shortfall, I hope the teachers and administrators continue to help our kids learn and grow.

We will get the government we elect, and if we let the loud --no new tax voices, who I believe are in the minority, but energized, elect no new tax politicians, as we saw at both the state and local level in this last election, then we will watch the quality of life and economic vitality of this locality and our state deteriorate. Beyond that, it's a matter of conscience, who are the selfish ones among us, and who are those, that practice the Christian values they so loudly espouse. Dismantling our public health, education, and social service network is a disgrace, and if done, speaks loudly about the character of this nation.

WAIT A SECOND

10.3 million dollars less than last years 304 million dollar budget is ONLY 3% less. How can this be a CRISIS? Cut every departments budget 3%. Tell the department heads they can do it any way they want it's ONLY 3% for God's sake.

city resident, you are trying to have the cake, eat it too and then put it on a credit card to be paid for with county revenue with your argument.

County residents pay 74 cents in taxes per hundred dollars of real estate assessment. 12 of those cents go directly to the city. So whatever services the city provides, the county helps foot the bill.

But you're right. This is what the people of albemarle chose. However, to claim that the county budget will result in "substandard schools, no libraries, inadequate police and fire protection and no money for transportation or recreation" is quite a stretch."

Albemarle County schools perform better than City schools by any metric available. The libraries are provided by the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, not the county (or city) directly. No one has ever claimed that there aren't enough police in Albemarle county that I've heard and certainly crime is much, much less of a problem in Albemarle than in Charlottesville. Finally, your fire protection, transportation and recreation(huh?) argument sounds just like boilerplate diatribe.

To compare the level of complaints regarding the city's provision of services to residents as compared to the county's provision of services is laughable. There are numerous, numerous examples of the city of charlottesville either spending money on unnecessary boondoggles such as new bricks and easily stealable $30,000 christmas trees or failing on a grand scale at performing basic municipal functions such as clearing snow or delivering water at a reasonable price.

The county has been pinching pennies for years and that is why the tax rate is so low. Add to that the fact that part of the county's tax revenue is siphoned off and handed to the city.

The city does so well because of UVA. Not because of the wisdom of it's elected leaders, not because of it's high tax rate and bloated government, not because of genius or specialness of the residents, but because of a massive, state funded cash cow that has bestowed billions and billions of dollars on this municipality over the years.

To sit there are tut-tut the county over it's low taxes and low budget when the city absorbs %16 of the county's revenue and while the city enjoys the benefits of UVA is really, really specious and a represents a truly facile and banal viewpoint.

Tater Tot....if sixty percent of the land IS in land use subsidy, and if the county tries and limit development, which it has, then what do you think that does to the value of the remaining land? and the cost of living?

Compared to a similar market (counties with similar wealth), employees are indeed underpaid. Boyd et al say they believe in free markets but only when it suits their political purposes (kind of like conservatives who say they believe in the "original intent" of the Constitution, except when they don't...(the Heller case and Bush v. Gore are two prime examples).

Repubs and Dems have become too dependent on corporate largesse...but only one modern president balanced the budget and started to pay down the national debt and that was Clinton....and every single Repub in Congress voted AGAINST his deficit reduction plan in 1993 (look it up).

Bunning picked a funny time and a minor bill ($10 billion) to become
so concerned about the budget, especially when he voted AGAINST other measures to rein in spending.

No matter how one slices it, nationally there has to be some tax increases and some spending cuts to balance the budget again. No way around it. And in Virginia, the same applies (but the conservatives in the House, including Bell, are adamantly opposed). And in the county, in citizens want quality education and good roads, and parks, and police protection and fire & rescue services, they'll have to pay for those too.

Maybe you are a legitimate farmer.....do you really believe 60 percent of the land is legitimately farmed? And how often did the county "check" your cows (just recently I suppose...they haven't had the people to nspect 40,000 + parcels)...and if there were no cows, what'd they do in the past? and how many people put some cows on the land just to get the subsidy? and how many individuals create corporate trusts to get subsidies and avoid taxes? know of anyone like that?

Disturbed writes,

"it’s also pitiful the total lack of parental interest that many have in their children’s education. Those folks need Norplants IMHO."

Pointless venting. It's not going to happen (forcible Norplanting, that is). So, not advancing the discussion in any constructive way.

"No more BS cultural explorations, feel good ââ?¬Å?esteem building”, and other crap."

Can you list the "BS cultural explorations" that are taking up instructional time? and the "feel-good 'esteem-building'"? Specific examples of things that actually happen in any of the county schools.

"Just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic period." So, you are opposed to science, history, music, art, and PE?

"And while at it, attempt to raise the drop out rate." So you want the rate of drop-outs to be higher than it currently is? That's what "raise the drop out rate" means.

Just seeking clarity from you on these plans for reform.

It's time that county and city consolidate schools just as Williamsburg and James City County did. City schools are losing students and have room to accommodate. But many county residents might not like the demographics. That's the ugly truth. Furthermore, the schools need to get back to basics. No more BS cultural explorations, feel good "esteem building", and other crap. Just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic period. And while at it, attempt to raise the drop out rate. Many young people that ARE graduates are woefully unprepared to deal with the workplace. Many can't even spell properly. I've seen it with some of our young people in my job. It's pitiful AND it's also pitiful the total lack of parental interest that many have in their children's education. Those folks need Norplants IMHO.

Growing up in Charlottesville in the 1920's my single mother had little money, but in those days parents did whatever they could not to send their children to public schools, because no one thought they were very good. I hope this doesn't happen again in Charlottesville. the saying back then was, nice children didn't go to public schools ; there was a huge social division,back then, between the public and private schools, are we moving back in this direction ?

Cville Eye, You sound as though you live in a gated community.
And your comments about rising assessments sound as though you are opposed to "markets." In general, the state of Virginia and the county of Albemarle are well-managed...but you cannot deny the extraordinarily low tax rate in the county nor can you deny that if 60 percent of of land is in the land use subsidy, then the tax burden gets shifted to the other 40 percent. Maybe if the county had a higher rate AND eliminated the abuse of the land use subsidy, there's be no budget problem.

Why should the county raise it tax rate when it has enough money to offer the YMCA over $3m while it's looking for ways to fund its schools? The county will never have enough money as long as it doesn't have prorities and have city residents advocating for it to adopt ever-increasing budgets.
"... and they come from the county's unwillingness to tax itself to pay for the services citizens have come to expect. " What they obviously expect is country club amanities on someone else's dime. Why have citizens come to expect so many services on somebody else's dime. It's that growing welfare mentality. I guess that's Mayor Norris wants to build more subsidized housing in the city.

Groeth in Albemarle county actually costs money not the reverse, that is a large part of the problem, developers have not paid their fair share to support the increased population they've created, and the falling property values cannot make up the difference for the schools, services and roads that are needed, becuase of this increase in population.

pf, you are right on many accounts, but I don't see money being cut from landscaping and art, I see it being taken from the mentally ill, the disabled, the homeless and the jobless. If we don't put this country back to work, there will much more than plants and art that are missing from our society.

TJ the argument between right and left on this is really about accountability. I as a conservative desire the same things you do for the most part, but believe that it can be done for less. I have dealt with the county and seen them in action... and inaction. There is a lot of money wasted. There are fundemental changes that need to be made. Government bulidings should be utilitarian across the boerd. They should never spend money on artwork but should ask for donations or loans of it from the populace. They should never spend money on landscaping, they should have the heigh scool classes have competitons to plan and execute it with donated and grown plants. There are lots of creative ways to spend less but you will never get there.

If you simply allow folks to make a wish list you end up where fairfax county is today with a tax rate of 1.09 on homes that are apprasied at twice as much. They have all kinds of things we don't have but they are in a bigger bind than we are.

Put the pressure on to make sure they really have cut the fat then if they need some more money relent... slowly.

Harry did you read the article I linked to from the Atlantic Monthly?
Albemarle County will have to cut jobs, they are one of the wealthiest counties in the state with the lowest tax rate--it's time to do your part if you believe in this country, this is not the time for selfishness but for patriotism.

Here is the deal.........all governemnet budgets have been abused for so long that anyone connected with them is drunk with budget power. If you cut a school budget $30- they scream, because they have been given everything for so long. If you cut a County budget $50-, they scream, because they have been given that money for so long.....if you cut a homeowners budget $100-, through unemployment, or job reduction, they bear with it, suck it up and continue to provide for their families as best they can.

Come on budget busters, get with the program, cut back to where you should be in salary, benefits and perquisites. Stop your whining, show some leadership and become part of the solution instead of continuing to be part pf the problem.

This is not the time to worry about the federal debt, or raising local taxes to keep jobs. If you read the above article you will realize there is a far greater problem facing our nation --joblessness
and that this is a crisis for future generations --remember the WPA and the CCC, those programs are needed again and immediately. If you care about your country fight to preserve and increase jobs in this country and fight to raise the taxes needed to do this. To bring back the spending needed to meet school needs, I have been told, would cost each homeowner in Albemarle county $200--what can you buy with that, dinner out with the family and a movie ?

If the county really wants to solve the long term budget issues than promote more tourism. Create public private partnerships to bring more people here. Encourage field trips from DC and Maryland with a pre planned trip to Monticello, afternoon lunch on the downtown mall and maybe a stop at a working farm on the way back.

OUTSIDE MONEY is the answer. Ask Orlando how much revenue they get from Disney World.

GSOE-

I understand that perfectly well. When you stub your toe walking through the house in the middle of the night you are allowed to yell "Ouch that hurts!" or an expletive of your choosing even though there are people in the world with inoperable brain tumors.

Most government employees are thankful to have a job. But when that they aren't getting a raise is brought out in public, don't they have the right to respond in public? When I didn't get a raise, it wasn't in all the papers and on TV so neither was my disappointment.

No wonder they want us to pay for their growth and infrastructure costs --this is ridiculous 62.6 cents per $100ââ?¬â?? one of the lowest in Virginia. I agree, if the city had annexed the 29 corridor, instead of agreeing to the revenue sharing agreement, they'd be in far worse shape. If they want substandard schools, no libraries, inadequate police and fire protection and no money for transportation or recreation that's their choice.

What qualifies Mr. Drake as someone who can accurately characterize the effects of school budget cuts?

Ok, remember, whining is a national pastime. Yeah, a 5% raise isn't in the cards but why can't a group express disappointment with their publicly disclosed pay increase? And if your boss negotiates in the media, you need to as well.

Eventually if you don't pay the employees enough, the good ones will leave for greener pastures if and when they get the chance.

There will always be people out of work, that don't get raises, that have personal misfortune... but unless people have the hope of their personal betterment you get what happened in the Soviet Union... you pretend to work and they pretend to pay you...

I'm sorry, I must have missed where in this article public service employees are whining. I just don't see it. Apparently gasbag has encountered some of these whiners during his 30 years of cop-shopping. What does that have to do with this article, I ask?

ANYONE would be foolish not to be grateful for a job in this economy. Public service employees should be doubly grateful as their pay comes directly from other citizens. No where in the article or in the comments is this disputed, except in gasbag's memories.

Gasbag, how about discussing the article instead of making the discussion a referendum on your experiences and your life? I mean, seriously. Every article you comment on you somehow find a way to make the discussion about you. Are you really that insecure?

Thanks, Hoolarious, you sound smart too.

My point is that the school board should have provided a balanced budget. Maybe I'm wrong in my thinking, but couldn't the BOS now take their budget and say, "we disagree with these cuts. we're going to cut your budget HERE instead"? That couldn't happen, could it? I honestly don't know the answer to that and I'm too lazy to look it up.

It seems to me that the school board should simply announce the cuts. It's a little bit cowardly to present it to the BOS to force their hand. On the other hand, you could say that they are simply being straightforward in presenting exactly what's being cut.

When I looked at the tiered cuts I only saw one or two things where I felt remiss about the cuts. I don't recall now off the top of my head what they were. But I was left thinking, "these are easy cuts to make and they're being a little petty and rubbing the BOS' noses in it." However, that was just my visceral reaction.

I'm reminded of the ancient Chinese curse, "may you live in interesting times". All these questions and issues are interesting on many different levels. Hopefully the economy and/or the real estate market will recover soon and the times will get a little less so.

And you think this budget is grim, read this:

"How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America"

"The Great Recession may be over, but this era of high joblessness is probably just beginning. Before it ends, it will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults. It will leave an indelible imprint on many blue-collar men. It could cripple marriage as an institution in many communities. It may already be plunging many inner cities into a despair not seen for decades. Ultimately, it is likely to warp our politics, our culture, and the character of our society for years to come."

By Don Peck

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/03/how-a-new-jobless-er...

The only hope I have to prevent this is a vibrant educational system, in my mind, the best investment we can make in our future.

If they are 8 million dollars short they should look no further then the 2 story gymnasium they just built at Brownsville elementary! How much would you like to bet every other school in the county is whining that they don't have one. Forget that's it's ridiculous to build something like that and take away all the ball fields they use to have. If your kids are fat turn off the TV and tell them to go outside, like our parents did, or how about mow the lawn! Parents want to blame there kids surroundings and don't do anything about it. Lets not forget about all the west end parents that send their kids to St.Anne's and still pay thousands a month to live in a nice home! Not to mention most of the homes in the county can be built for under 200,000 you're telling me the lots are worth more then the house. They cap "socialist security" why not cap real estate! If you don't stop taking from the producers and giving to the non workers you are looking for trouble! I love how they say. " the services you all have grown accustomed too." Get a grip and get unaccustomed. It's not what you can do for your country. It's not what the country can do for you. It's what can you do for yourself! I've witnessed first hand the extent of our infrastructure in the big cities of this nation and we're in deep trouble. The municipalities don't maintain anything. They get paid to build new and that's it. You have sewers in Richmond that haven't been maintained since the 1800's!One instance i can tell you about, they built a bridge on Miller School Rd in the late 60's. They haven't once sealed the concrete on it! Seems to me a $1000 ever 5 yrs. would prevent failure in the concrete for 50 more years! All this "stimulus" money is just paying for large antiquated government bureaucracy that isn't helping anyone but a few that should have entered the private sector.

"pf, you are right on many accounts, but I don’t see money being cut from landscaping and art, I see it being taken from the mentally ill, the disabled, the homeless and the jobless" This statement reflects the priorites of the cutters. For example, I place the Convention Center very at the bottom of my priorites and would rather they shifted that money to other things, like libraries. Why are tax payers picking up the tab for hotel and restaurant advertisizing?
As for the county submitting an unbalanced budget, I don't see anywhere that the school board's budget has to be balanced when submitted to the BoS. It simply represents a request for the amount of money that they feel they need. The BoS will actually allocate the money it thinks it has. When the school board actually gets its allocationit will then have to establish a balnced udget. Again, a question of priorities. And, remember that today's budgets reflect an explosiion in assessmentsthese past few years. If it hadn't happen, there wouldn't be the need to return to 2002 levels so quickly because the budgets wouldn't have gotten to be so high. The school board and the BoS would have had to tell a lot of people "No" since 2002 and there wouldn't have been such a shock.

We have ourselves...payback time..
After years of absolutely everything in this entire country predicated on more and evermore growth, now we run into what happens when growth stops. When you run an economy based on being able to pay "interest" on everything and based on the expectation of an ever growing "revenue stream", unpleasant things happen if growth slows and more unpleasant things happen if it stops. If growth reverses even by a bit, it's "Le Deluge".

The peculiar paradox of a growth oriented, interest paying economy, is that no growth feels like negative growth, which it is in a sense because you have to pay past bills and current ones, when you planned on being able to do that with ease based on more income...

Albemarle County is just finding out that it is as connected to the national economy as much as anyone. The good news is: the school system budget is full of extraneous things and there's actually plenty of fat to be cut as long as folks have enough sense to see the difference between education and "education". You should see the s##t storm gathering in California with budgetary things and what's going down in public education out here where the state college and university system is really taking a hit.

Albemarle County could start by cancelling the many dollars per mile expenditures for diesel fuel,depreciation,driver's salaries,wear&tear, etc. all involved in running school buses thousands of miles for all manner of non education functions such as games played hundreds of miles away, etc. After that, there's lots more..
Everything at all, no matter how frivolous, is a "good idea" as long as nobody has to worry about paying for it, but we do have to worry..

"And your comments about rising assessments sound as though you are opposed to 'markets.' " Your assessment obviously has nothing to do with the market. The value of your house should be more related to what you sold it for (its market price) and not what your neighborhood received for his. So why did a house stay on the market for almost a year at its assessed price of $373,000,, sold for $320,000 and was immediately assessed for $343,000, $23k more than its selling price? The market says $320k, the assessor says $343k. Which price is the market price? It was marketed at its assessed price and it didn't seel any faster than if it was marketed at $1M.
"...but you cannot deny the extraordinarily low tax rate..." You don't pay the tax rate, you pay the taxes.
If I bought my house for $100k and ten years later it's assessed at $800k, I have a lot to complain about. I may not be able to pay my taxes. Why? I haven't sold my house, the money's not in the bank and my income hasn't increased 8 times.
"...nor can you deny that if 60 percent of of land is in the land use subsidy, then the tax burden gets shifted to the other 40 percent..." Not necessarily, it depends on the value of the property. Let's say my house is on 50 acres and my house and two acress are assessed at $50M. Another 50 homes, each on one acre and is assessed at $100k each. My tax burden is greater than all the other ones combined.
I have noticed D- that you seem to have a problem with people you think have money.

TJ and others have made some compelling points. It seems to me that there are several issues at play in the county budget and the Bell amendment to take education $$$ from C'ville.

First, people typically do NOT go into pubic service (as a teacher, a police officer, a nurse, etc) to make a lot of money and to wallow in those hefty pay raises. And, investing in education (and in infrastructure) is, in fact, investing in everybody's future.

Second, Albemarle is a wealthy county that has chosen to have a LOW tax rate. Dennis Rooker said in a letter-to-the-editor to the Daily Progress a couple of Springs ago that no locality in Virginia that approximates Albemarle's wealth has a lower tax rate.

Third, SIXTY percent of the land in the county is in the land use subsidy (let's call it what it is) program. County planning documents say that agricultural production and jobs are declining and they make up a small percentage of the overall economy and workforce anyway (legitimate, full-time farmers or those who are elderly or who own land and have limited income deserve exemptions)...does anyone really believe that most of the land in land use subsidy is devoted to farm or timber production? The county hasn't done much over the years to police this program.
Those who have big estates and are not likely to develop them anyway. And if they get land use AND put their land in a conservation easement, they get an additional tax break (by the way, for those who say that over the years assessments have gone up, is this no the working of the "market" that conservatives so love? and don't those increased taxes get written off federal income taxes? and if property is sold later, after values have gone up, does anyone complain about the "assessment" when he pockets the profits?)

Fourth, the county's budget problems stem from twenty years (and especially the last eight) of supply-side economic policy and deregulation of the financial markets, and they come from the county's unwillingness to tax itself to pay for the services citizens have come to expect. For years the county has balanced its budget on the backs of employees, especially teachers. Now, county leaders are having trouble squeezing more out of the system, hence the Bell amendment seeking money back from C'ville.

Fifth, THIS (budget cutting) is what conservatives believe in (except when they don't). Supply-side economics was/is a huge Ponzi scheme that funnels money to the wealthiest...conservatives piled up huge debts (http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/03/17/politics/politicalhotsheet/entry...) which they've tried to pawn off on Obama. And their answer for correcting deficits and debt, MORE tax cuts (and guess for whom?). Meanwhile, elected conservatives like Boyd and McDonnell et al will ââ?¬â?? as Grover Norquist likes to say ââ?¬â?? try and "starve the beast," i.e. cut services and employees and programs.

Last, the county budget and the Bell amendment are as much about Ken Boyd's potential political future as anything else. Sad commentary, that.

Let's focus on what this is about: we're short-changing the future when we cut education budgets year after year. Same with libraries. Seems we've decided to be penny wise and pound foolish. I'm thinking of voting with my feet.

TJ, the "developers" who don't pay their fair share is a misnomer.

If a piece of property that was agricultual gets converted to residential there is a 5 year penalty of full taxes. Then the developer usually pays "proffers" (legal bribes). Also every single house ever built in the county had infrstructure here first that the landowner didn't pay for. Even if it was just the trail now called three chopt road. (rt 250)

If a piece of land is a vacant residential lot then the owners have been paying taxes on it since the beggining of property taxes (100 years?)so they have paid UPFRONT and deserve to be added. Just because the county spent their money on other things does not mean they should now have to pay twice.

But I digress... the real culprit is that we do not look at what it costs to provide services. the city spends 16,000 dollars A DAY on the transit system... thta is an incredible sum to me. Someone needs to look at how many riders they have and how much per ride we are subsidizing.

They are trying to spend 115 MILLION on housing for the poor... to improve the exisiting 375 units and add 3225 more tha comes to 191k a unit when they already own 375 and condos go for 125-150k and the market is flooded with them.

I realize these are city issues but the point is to do the math and figure out why it cost so much to accomplish so little.

WE are not in this mess because we spent money making up for growth, we are in this mess because the county didn't save for a rainy day.

Federal unemployment benefits will run out next week for millions of Americans, our government is verging on ungovernable. Localities simply cannot cover all these expenses with property taxes.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/27/us/27cong.html

The county has been living off city services for years, now it's time that they provided for their own and raise taxes to provide the services that their population has come to expect: parks, social services, roads. They are increasingly an urban population- trying to govern with a rural mind set. Let them decimate their schools, transportation system, but don't think the city will come to the rescue. The revenue agreement has nothing to do with the predicament they're in, it's their tax rate that's at fault. Fairfax County, with an equally high income base, similar to Albemarle and priding itself on it's school system, has a tax rate of $1.09 per $100 and is considering a 5cent increase. Schools are perhaps the #1 determinate that companies look at when relocating, so good luck with economic development if you create mediocre schools.

Why not tax the big land barons who get breaks by saying their "Farmer" Tax the wineries as you would any other business . And how about the alpacas "Farmers" Doesn't s sweater get taxed.

First) carrer teachers police and other county workers are not underpaid when you compare them to the private sector. Carrer employees have it pretty good.

Second)THe tax RATE may be low but the proerty values are high compared to surrounding counties. Cross the James or rockfish rivers and property values drop by 40%

Third)THe county does POLICE the program they actually come out and count my cows. I also pay full tilt taxes on my home and surrounding acreage. You call it a subsidy I call it tax fairness since raw land that is not developed saves the county millions on infrastucture, congestion, school crowding etc. Do away with it and two things will happen, the price of the properties will drop (causing a loss of revenue)and you will see more farmers selling out or selling off parcels (an infrastucure expense)

Fourth)THe counties problems stem from spending every dime they make as soon as they make it and not saving for a rainy day. The county should NEVER spend more than is required for the basic services. Thier income and expenditures doubled.. where did the money go over the last eight years. The didn't balance the budget on the backs of anybody they spent the money on other things instead. No amount of money would ever be enough which is why conservatives dig their heels in about spending.

FIFTH) Congess piled up huge debts.. both sides spent like pissed off wives who found out their husband was cheating. The only person trying to rein inSpending is Senator Bunning this week and look what happend to him. All he wanted was for Congress to figure out how to pay for it.(they could have voted to pass it anyway with only 51 votes but were afraid of the accountability)

Lastly, I disagree with the bell amendment, think we should have a modest increase in the tax rate BUT start a dialogue about what we expect the county to do and not do for next year and upcoming years. My fear is that if they get any extra money they will just supersize all of their meals and get the triple decker sundae instead of an ice cream sandwich.

i just heard Rodney Thomas on WINA say that he and many others could afford, and would be willing to pay higher taxes, so why not allow that by raising the tax rate and giving those truly in need assistance. This is already done in the City.

What would Drake consider to be a "catastrophic" cut to the county schools' budget? I think it's very easy to say that when you don't specify your definition of catastrophic.

Crozetitse

1) The wineries do pay tax, in fact they pay an additional tax as all alcohol is taxed in the state.

2) any profits from any farm operation pays taxes the same as any other business.

3) "land barons" do pay taxes on their land based on land use. Their houses and immeiadiate land is taxed the same as everyone elses. The cow pasture and cornfeild do pay a lower rate but it SAVES the county money because if they subdivided (by right) the county would be REQUIRED to provide the nessasary infrastructure of police fire and schools, expand the resivoirs etc etc. In addition they pay taxes on profits from the corn and cattle.

Not everyone who owns land is rich. Those that are probably pay way more in taxes than they consume anyway.

The problem with the county is not income it is outflow. There may be a need to adjust the rate slightly, but not BEFORE they do some hard work to find the waste and redundancy.

Two years without a raise? They ought to consider themselves lucky to even have a job and an attractive benefits package. The private sector is hurting a lot worse than Albemarle employees are.

Mr. Tucker did not say that those employees don't feel fortunate to have jobs. And It appears from the article that they are fewer in number than they've been at any time over the last 8 years. So that means fewer rambo-like rookie cops in the cop shoppe, right? You should be pleased!!

And Lone Ranger, from the article it sounds like Mr. Tucker is doing the hard work you mention. I mean, did you read the article or just respond to the comment about land use?

The budget is online, probably, and is a public document. If you are so interested in trimming the "fat" from it, why not do something constructive? Read it and then go to a board of supervisor's meeting and speak up. This is America!

Or you could, from a position of ignorance, repeat the same boilerplate talking points and claim to be a patriot.....

Mr/Mrs/Miss Gasbag Please, I worked around and with local government employees for over 3 decades. I know firsthand how they *ALL* raise cain each year they don't get a raise. To go one step further, I even recall one sheriff I worked for raising cain because he felt his "city supplement" wasn't as much as that of the previous sheriff before him. People aren't in government work to help people any longer, it's all about their salary, raises, benefits and job security. Trust me, they always feel they are worth more than they are actually getting. And going two years without a raise probably has some of them approaching a nervous breakdown.

Gee Gasbag, maybe your limited experience with this small subset of people doesn't allow you to make a sweeping generalization about everyone in public service. but just maybe. and maybe, just maybe, I know something about something too.

all you know is what you've experienced. sounds like you've had some bad experiences. people have a tendency to attract negative experiences with the energy they put out. we all construct our own reality. it is a pity yours has you feeling so badly about your fellow man.

Why shouldn't people grouse when they are told that, hey your health insurance premiums are going up, but you aren't getting a pay raise this year, so your take-home pay is going to be dropping? The strawman of "well you should be happy to have a job at all" is just that. So what?

Working in the public sector is a tradeoff... you aren't going to get those big raises and stock options and big bonuses like you can get in private industry. (You might get a small bonus that will make the taxpayers scream, but that might be equivalent to a couple weeks worth of pay.)

You trade off that for some job security... working in private industry when the company I was at was in dire straits, I didn't get a raise for 24 months... but then when we finally got some cash, I got about 12%. They made up for it... imagine the outrage if public employees got that kind of raise! The employees know that they gave up occasional jackrabbit increases for slow and steady... but they are being told no and steady... and they'll never make up for that.

OK, I have a solution. Let's raise taxes and give them all a %5 raise this year.

The taxpayers who lost their jobs, or the taxpayers who didn't get a raise this year.... they're paying to give somebody else a raise?

Yeah, my solution is flawed, but this is the way government employees think it should work. :)

quote: No public employee has said that they aren’t grateful for their job, so where did YOUR comment come from? your own mind, that’s where."

Read my reply above about working with and around government employees for over three decades. I know firsthand how they think their jobs are an entitlement owed to them. Year after year I listened to bellyaching about raises and promotions and how they felt they were treated like dirt.

"You are only worth what it would take to replace you. Nothing more and nothing less. If you cannot stomach that then go into business for yourself and then you will make exactly what your worth."

But don't forget that when you are calculating cost to replace, you include all of the costs.

The replacement isn't a drop-in normally... they need to learn systems, they need to learn how things are done... during this time you are paying them. So stuff isn't getting done.

Then when something where historical knowledge is needed and the newbie makes the same mistake that the last cheaper newbie made before he learned how to do it right and became too expensive...

Plus the work of doing the hiring... your employees in the HR and the interview process... ballpark $10k in total costs to fill a technical position...

You're right, Chicago Boy, it's not exactly a crisis. But it is a somewhat interesting news story. Our local gov'ts will survive and survive better than most of their counterparts.

But it's also newsworthy as the new supervisors are being tested by this revenue shortfall. So far they've fulfilled their promise by not raising the tax rate. I believe their next test will be to respond to the school board's gambit of not presenting a balanced budget.

If anyone wants to criticize some public employees' professional performance, it seems to me that the county's education department has not performed it's duty to ensure that critical budget items are not cut by the board of supervisors. In presenting an unbalanced budget, they appear to be abdicating their responsibility and punting to the BOS. Either that or they are hoping that they can bring political pressure to bear on the BOS.

The school board is an elected body as well and shouldn't simply pass the buck when difficult decisions need to be made. It is unfortunate that they do not display a little more courage in these trying times.

Here is what Fairfax County has planned.
"The $3.3 billion budget could increase the tax rate as high as $1.09 per $100 of assessed value for the average homeowner. The proposed tax rate is up from $1.04.
http://wtopnews.com/?nid=722&sid=1895487

Duane Snow in today's Pogress says, if the libraries don't slash 5% and instead close Scotttsville, then he doesn't want to give them any money at all. What he seems not to realize is, that libraries are primarily volunteer organizations, with NO fat in the budget, but always underfunded to begin with. I think Snow, Thomas, and Boyd, if they get their way, with Dorrier's help, will so negatively alter the quality of services in the county that voters will finally wake up and vote them out first chance they get. Mr. Tucker has been a brilliant fiscal manager and there is certainly no fat , even in the current budget, so the damage done by this crop of thoughtless cutting of departments, and services, that have taken years to develop, will do irreparable harm to the county.

Duane Snow is right. What he is saying is that if they are so inept that they cannot find money somewhere else to save the Scottsville library than they don't deserve to have their jobs, step aside and let someone with gumption solve the problem.

It is simple, if you close the scottsville Library you are denying many people 100% opportunity to use the library that they pay taxes for. They cannot afford even the gas to drive to charlottesville and many of them are old and are afraid to drive that far. Imagine paying taxes for 75 years and not even having a library to go to while the one in charlottesville is open 7 days? The rural areas do not have high speed internet yet, the people in the city do.

Close the Charlottesville library one day a week and keep Scottsville open three days a week for the same money.

The problem is they are trying to blackmail the electorate into rainsing taxes by hitting us where it hurts instead of hitting them where it hurts.

Cut everybodies pay by 10% and see who leaves. Where are they gonna go? Exactly.

These folks get MILLIONS. They can find the money.

Send them back to the drawing board.

TJ, I share your unpopular opinion that we should raise taxes. I'm a recent transplant to Albemarle County, and I love it- the natural beauty, the history, the University, the culture ( I could go on...) I also love it for the parks, libraries, and the high quality public schools, and those entities need our continued support. I was extremely surprised to discover that my property taxes here were only a few hundred dollars more a year than they were on my comparably-sized house in South Carolina (which had a value half that of my current home). I always wondered what all these people who just say no to taxes would do with all the money they ostensibly saved, since there would be no parks to visit, no libraries to patronize, and roads too awful to get them anywhere else.

CvilleEye you make an excellent point that the bloated real estate assessments gave local government false optimism, but the real problem is that basic services: such as, education, health and welfare, transportation, and public safety, should not be primarily a local responsibility, and can be more equitably funded on a state and federal level. Putting the major burden on local government is a recipe for disaster for our entire country and democratic way of life.

Rally in Richmond. This is what every Virginian, who values our children should be doing--and even then, I believe, the governor is not a fan of public education and will do what he can to starve funds and increase charter schools and vouchers to private schools, which will erode our democracy.

http://www.nbc29.com/Global/story.asp?S=12056368

Growth does not pay for itself. On the local level it's not just the downturn in real estate that's at fault for this deficit --how about growth, more people, more children, more services needed--fire, police, roads --Growth costs money and it's not coming from the developers.

Gasbag to the 10th: So agree with your point. To make it simple, cut the fluff and get down to the brass taxes. Why is the easiest solution so hard to accept?

In the end they will bump the rate but this exercise will at least get them on the treadmill to shed a few pounds.

The government gets a raise everytime the property vaslues exceed inflation and they spend it.

Thr formula should be a fixed rate and then compare property value growth to overall inflation and have the county save any revenues for a rainy day when property vaslues exceed inflation and dip into the savings when inflation outpaces property values.

If they had done this starting in 2000 we would be sitting pretty right now.

"Pound Foolish," I think you're half right here, but I do want to interject with a few points.

If a piece of property that was agricultual gets converted to residential there is a 5 year penalty of full taxes.

That's true, but quite often the land is purchased quite a long time before that and held onto until it becomes valuable enough to develop.

Then the developer usually pays ââ?¬Å?proffers” (legal bribes).

The proffers are always a teeny tiny fraction of the real costs. The total proffers on Biscuit Run were something like 10% of the cost of the road construction costs alone.

But I digress”Š the real culprit is that we do not look at what it costs to provide services. the city spends 16,000 dollars A DAY on the transit system”Š thta is an incredible sum to me. Someone needs to look at how many riders they have and how much per ride we are subsidizing.

Hey, wait 'til you learn how much we spend subsidizing roads! :)

The basic math here is that growth doesn't pay for itself. The county knows that, and I've been to at least a couple of public forums where some rep (Tucker, maybe?) has pointed that out. A new $300k house will bring in $2,200/year in property taxes. If just one school-aged kid is in that family, we'll spend $8,000/year educating that kid. I don't care how much money that family spends on liquor, hotel rooms, groceries, etc., that's not going to come to but maybe $4,000/year in property taxes. And $8,000 is just for school, and just for one kid! Let's factor in transportation, police, fire, rescue, sewers, water, and�God help us�maybe another kid in school, and it's clear that growth is a huge financial loser for us. There's no way around that math.

waldo, I agree that education roads and infrastructure all cost money but if I owned a piece of property for the last 100 years the city or county would have recieved taxes for 100 years without providing any service unless it was part of a forest fire. That is a lot of money when compund intereast is figured in. So now if I want to finally build on the house why should I be looked at as a bad person? I have to pay to hook up to the utility grid. (and although I don't know when property taxes were first introduced every vacant property in the city or county has been paying taxes since that day.)

My points are why does it cost so much to build a mile of road? Seems awful expensive to me. Crunch the numbers.

.

CvilleEye you make an excellent point that the bloated real estate assessments gave local government false optimism, but the real problem is that basic services: such as, education, health and welfare, transportation, and public safety, should not be primarily a local responsibility, and can be more equitably funded on a state and federal level. Putting the major burden on local government is a recipe for disaster for our entire country and democratic way of life.
If the federal and state take over the local responsibilites such as education, would the people of Albemarle be willing to give up local control and let the state and feds run the schools? Would the locality be willing to send its tax money to Ridhmond to be redistributed around the state through a State-wide pot? How much of Albemarle money should go to Buckingham so that it can have all of the programs that Albemarle has?