Opinion time: Public can scrutinize O'Connell's budget

news-propertytaxesCity residents who want to affect the upcoming budget will get their chance next week.

While Albemarle's fiscal year 2010-11 budget cuts to the bone, Charlottesville's $126,001,345 operating budget is just .77 percent less than last year, promises no cuts in services, no real estate tax increases, and is fattened by $18.45 million in revenue-sharing from the county.

The city's total budget is $140.7 million, down 1.19 percent from the previous year. While Albemarle pushes its capital expenditures out five years, Charlottesville is spending money for new sidewalks, stormwater programs, parkland acquisition, greenway enhancement, and affordable housing initiatives–- as well as a $2.8 million economic downturn fund.

Employees in both jurisdictions will go for a second year in a row without raises (though some $750 City Hall bonuses provoked a stir earlier this year). City schools will get $40 million, 40 percent of city real estate and personal property revenues.

Outgoing City Manager Gary O'Connell's proposed budget keeps the property tax rate at 95 cents per $100 value; and with lower assessments, most property owners will see their taxes remain the same or get lowered.

However, at the time he announced his departure in late January, O'Connell conceded that a November budget report shows annual deficits that will soon begin swelling–- with an $11 million deficit in 2015. He pointed out then that City Council, prohibited by law from deficit spending, will probably have to cut services and/or raise the tax rate.

“This continues to be a challenging time for every locality in the Commonwealth, but Charlottesville continues to make ends meet through conservative budgeting, responsible planning, and some tough but strategic decisions," says O'Connell in a release.

And in a swan song letter to City Council, he writes, "When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters–- one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity."

The proposed property tax rate will be a key subject of the upcoming City Council meeting on Monday, March 15. As usual, the meeting starts at 7pm in City Hall.


The Sky Is Falling

Stop giving the poor housing.. just give them a bus ticket to florida and a hundred bucks cash....

Don't let a crisis go to waste.

Fattened by $18.45 million in revenue-sharing from the county? This should make for an interesting discussion..... again. :)

"City's cost rises for homeless housing" this article on March 6th in the DP disturbed me; I wonder what others think ? The distribution of cost between the city and county seems entirely unfair, given the far larger population in the county and greater wealth.--why 21 vouchers for the city and only 9 for the county ?

---from the article
"More and more money is being drained from Charlottesville’s budget to fund the city’s first transitional housing building for the homeless, making the project more reliant on local dollars than some expected.

The single-room occupancy facility that the city is seeking to establish cleared a major hurdle last week, when Charlottesville and Albemarle County agreed to commit 21 and nine federal Housing Choice vouchers, respectively, that are necessary to subsidize rents in the 60-unit building."

Could the transitional apartment building for the homeless have something to do with the developer who had planned a nine story building on the corner of Ridge and W. Main backing out and putting it up for sale? The property where this transitional housing is located is prime real estate, and I wonder if this purchase by the city is the best use for it, or will it discourage other development close by. With the city looking at future deficits, and a population increasingly tired of tax increases, and possible loss of 2.6 million in school funding to the county; this purchase may turn out to be a costly mistake. The City already has the only public housing in the entire region, and the services required for this population are already falling most heavily on city coffers.