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