County budget meets hard times

"What a difference a year makes," Albemarle County Exec Bob Tucker observed to local media before presenting his fiscal 2008/2009 budget today. A year ago, as Albemarle was giddy over annual property reassessments that were up 15 percent, Tucker presented an operating budget that increased 6.7 percent. This year, with the housing market tanking nationally and county residential assessments up a more modest 0.14 percent, Tucker's $268.7 million budget represents a 2.1 percent increase.

"It's really unprecedented," says Tucker. "I've been here 35 years, and I've never seen a reassessment that low."

The total $331.4 million budget focuses on maintaining essential services, Tucker says, and the $26 million increase over last year is mainly in capital expeditures, not operations, he emphasizes. The $20.1 million, 69.5 percent increase will pay for projects at Albemarle High School and Brownsville and Greer elementaries.

It's up to the Board of Supervisors to determine whether to cut, hike, or maintain the current 68 cent/$100 value tax rate, and the county school board has presented a budget that's short $1.3 million in revenue.

Tucker notes that 13 county positions have been frozen and four eliminated, but county employees are looking at a 3.35 percent raise.

34 comments

M, I don't own 4 but some families do. It was an example. If I own 4 BMW's then you are right it probably is no biggie. Not everyone does though so add that $52 to real estate and vehicle tax and it adds up. You are obviously a tax-hugger. I believe you can donate your extra money to the county's schools if you like. County meal tax, utilty tax, phone tax, decal tax, vehicle tax, real estate tax not to mention federal and state tax do add up.

Then it sounds like we may agree -- the Board of Supervisors is a bunch of hacks that don't take time to actually understand the issues they vote on.

Let's just agree that they on the information that their lives, their staff and their constituents provide them.

Oh, I'm sorry, I guess when Bush and others in the GOP use "compassionate" it is all peachy-keen, but god forbid a liberal use it. Go pinch your pennies while others suffer around you -- does that make you feel good?

Bush doesn't serve on the school board or the BoS.

Also, I wouldn't call rubber-stamping a budget request as being either liberal or conservative. I would call it foolish, however.

According to the Daily Progress http://dailyprogress.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=CDP/MGArticle/CDP_Ba... the County school system is considering charging for students' school bus rides while Tucker is bemoaning not having enough money to start a transit authority (which will allow the same children to ride to the Mall for free in the summmer). What's the big picture here. The students are the clients here, not the staff. Forego the raises and let them enjoy just the step increases.

A few thoughts on this argument:

The tax rate shouldn't be played with. It costs the gov't more money for captital improvements and land acquisition when the marked goes up. If you then decrease the tax rate the government and the schools are put in a situation where they can't keep up with the market.

Students are not the clients of the educational system. The public is. It is the duty of the public to educate its students to the best of its ability for the future growth of this society. The number one predictor of student achievement is teacher quality. What do you think will happen to teacher quality when you don't give raises to stay competitive (The best UVA grads are leaving year after year to go to Norhtern VA where the pay is higher in relation to Cost of Living)?

In these times of budget tightening the school board and the BOS needs to do everything possible to make sure that teacher quality remains as high as possible. That means money for salary increases, money for school-based professional development, money for teachers to take classes and continue to learn. A GREAT teacher can teach more children in their room, and they can teach with less resources....but we have to make sure that we a. get GREAT teachers, and b. make our teachers GREAT, or the public is not serving its constituency (themselves). Don't be short sighted.

Actually there is a 50% tax increase which little is spoken about. When you get your decal tax it will now be $38.00 instead of the usual $25.00. Some will say its only $13 more but multiply that by the number of vehicles you own. So instead of $100 for 4 vehicles you will now pay $152. Guess that makes up for the lower assessment. They love to spend and will get it anyway they can! Oh yeah I heard the formula will also be changed so vehicle values will now be assessed higher. Cha-ching!
Way to tighten our belts Albemarle!

Should people whose primary residence is over their place of business get a tax break or pay the commercial rate? I don't see why these people who move in and out of Virginia in three years should be getting a tax break. They already get one on their income taxes and people who have paid for their homes can't. How fair is that?

This proposal will drive up rentals for the lower income such as those receiving Section 8 vouchers because the cost of their housing will go up.

a compassionate citizen, how much did you pay last year in real estate taxes? Cutting the rate when assessment go up is a part of State law for a reason. Why not learn to be compassionate with your money and not other people's?

It's not the school board's budget, it's part of the county's budget. That's why the BoS votes it up or down. It's not the school board's money either, before you argue that.
It's wonderful that you spend your money as you see fit, in a "compassionate" way. What a holier-than-thou term with a ridiculous implication that those who are not agreeing to ever-rising tax bills are some how not as compassionate as you are. That attitude doesn't go far with most people, I'll tell you.

As far as I can tell, the School Board decides their budget and are the ones considering charging for buses and athletics. Mr. Tucker does not appear to be part of that process. If you take issue with his concern on the regional transit system issue, you have every right. But do not try to tie it to the School Board's possible proposal to charge for busing.

I do not see what my specific tax amount has to do with anything. I have paid my taxes, they have gone up and down at the same rate as everyone in the county. My money goes into the system and I was willing to keep the rate as it was in the past. I also do what I can, within my means, to contribute to causes locally and keep my purchases within our community, where it benefits people and businesses in our area. Very little of my money flows outside this community.

When a family makes less one year then the one before they CUT BACK. They accept that they cannot have all of the "frills" they had before. The problem is that once the government starts a project they see it as a neccessity.

The county should NEVER purchase artwork. They should ask for donations or loans for their walls and lobbies. They should let the tree huggers donate trees for medians etc. They should stop having "celebrations" etc. until times get good again. The employees feel no obligation to save money because the leadership doesn't take a hit.

Somebody needs to look over the money they want to spend on schools and see why they pay SO MUCH FOR EVERYTHING.

One office they do need to create is a taxpayer advocate that has the right to review and call into question any purchase/contract at any time. Just KNOWING someone is going to report your bullshiat on the county website will save MILLIONS.

There will be no belt tighten at the county. There is no penalty for raising taxes unless it cost someone an office. There are a few Supervisor that can't wait to raise your taxes- they believe you aren't paying enough now!

4 vehicles? I own one. If you own four, then I'm guessing an extra $52 a year isn't going to hurt you too much.

Can you blame your elected officials for their tax and spend philosophy any more than you can blame the American people for their appetite for fast food? Would you expect for your leaders to save for a rainy day when most all Americans have no savings? You can't change human nature just like you can't control mother nature.

Therefore, I would like to see a grassroots campaign to force the general assembly and state legislature to pass a homestead exemption act that is mandatory and not left up to the local government. Furthermore, I want to see a cap placed on the yearly increase in property taxes for primary residences. Homeowners should be rewarded for being loyal to Virginia. Otherwise why doesn't everyone move to Florida where all these benefits are already law. Only by petition and by special referendum can we reel in these out of control money wasting "drunken sailors". Business leaders complain these changes would lead to a shift of the tax burden to them. Well I say if they would quit wasting so much money paying their lobbyist to wine and dine and send the legislators to Hawaii they would come out ahead in the end. The ordinary man does not have a chance except as a collective group. Stand up and be counted.

"Thank god they are giving the teachers and other employees a raise!And I mean that seriously¢Ã¢â??¬Šit allows the employees to receive a cost of living increase, because life isn't getting any cheaper." The tax payer is getting a raise, too. I wonder where would the employees go if they didn't get a raise, to Charlottesville, Fluvanna, Greene, Buckingham, Louisa, Nelson or Augusta.

"The tax payer is getting a raise, too."

Your right, because it seems to me we got two consecutive tax cuts which meant more money in the pockets of citizens and less money for the county to work with. So far, it doesn't seem like that will change. I'm a county resident and I think the tax cuts were irresponsible and shortsighted. And now the budget woes are reflecting that. The BOS needs to get off their sorry butts and realize that the tax rate shouldn't be played with. The market will go up and down and if we are constantly changing the rate to "keep up" with assessments, we are going to keep running into these types of situations.

College grads move to NOVA primarily for social reasons; there are far more eligibles there than here. The article didn't say anything about the money going into inservice training or continuing education scholarships, it said pay checks. It's so funny how people start bringing up stuff that isn't true to get a raise. We hear it every year. Even if what you say is true that teachers will all leave because they did't get a raise, why are the non-teachers also getting a raise? Do they make the teachers better teachers? It is the non-teachers who prepare the budget, not the teachers, and every year they get a raise behind the idea of improving teacher performance and competing more effectively for "the best teachers" who need more money to make them the "best" teachers. I wonder when teachers will get tired of others riding on their coat-tails. I'm surprised you didn't add the shop-worn "Teachers are going into their own pockets..."
Doctors provide services, they are not their clients. The public provides education, the students are the clients. Ridiculous verbosity really doesn't advance an argument. Don't worry, I'm sure you will get your raise. You always have.

Ahhh ideas....there are many. Let us start with excess. I saw those $30,000 planters and laughed. Does that "green roof" really serve a purpose other than to provide bragging rights? Wouldn't 3 extra inches of insulation given the same result? They can't even quantify any saving! Seems like a university project to me. Why a county spokesperson? Aren't the managers qualified to speak since they are the most knowledgable? How much admin is needed in the schools and where can one find a detailed budget on their website?
If you spend when times are great you also need to know how to throttle back when they are not not look for other sources to tax. Just think they are now talking gas tax so we can have empty buses!

Don't forget the sales tax. M, do you really think that anything that TheTruthInLies has suggested as cuts will be discussed by any official? Do you really think that TheTruthInLies has a chance of being elected? The voters have a "Don't cut mine, cut theirs" attitude."And you probably also receive at least a cost-of-living increase in your salary every year, so it's reasonable to expect that county employees will as well." I'm interested in knowing who, other than apparently government employees, get a cost-of-living adjustment in salary. Can somebody please answer?

¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??It's really unprecedented,¢Ã¢â??¬ says Tucker. ¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??I've been here 35 years, and I've never seen a reassessment that low.¢Ã¢â??¬ I find it hilarious Tucker wasn't as startled when assessments went through the roof as did our taxes and there was more money than he knew what to do with. Now our assessments have leveled off, at their peak, and he says its "unprecendeted". What will happen if the county actually lowered assessments? Raise the rate and spend more!

No, I'm not a tax hugger, and I'm not real eager to pay more, but I do acknowledge that things get more expensive every year - you've probably noticed that. It's costing me more to fill my car, for example, so it probably costs more to fill the school buses and cop cars as well. And you probably also receive at least a cost-of-living increase in your salary every year, so it's reasonable to expect that county employees will as well. So with all of that, you have to assume that if the county's population remains stable or increases, and if the level of services remains the same, the budget is going to have to be more. It's a fact of life. If you think the county needs to do some belt-tightening, then get yourself a copy of the budget, find the specific line items that you think could be decreased or eliminated completely, and go before the BOS and School Board with your ideas. Or better yet, run for the BOS or SB. Because people love to complain about their taxes increasing, but very rarely does anyone ever seem to have any specific ideas to stop that from happening.

"Please provide your sources..." If you go to mycaar.com you will see quite a few homes built after 2003 on the market. Also, a perusal of the local property transfers, checking out the sales in subdivisions less than ten years old so do the trick. Why do people buy and sell in so short of time? One reason is that when they move here, they have sold their former home and need to roll the money over into a new home or pay substantial capital gains taxes (especially if they sold it during the "bubble."). People who move here for grad school, temporary assignment to NGIC or GE or to work on a research project are members of this group. People who move to NOVA for political appointments or to Tidewater as part of the military or military-related businesses are others. Homeownership does not always equate to homesteading.
"...home values are going down in most parts of the country..." has very little to do with here where "down" is relative. A house just sold, after a price drop of $19,000, for $305,000, UP from the sales price in 2004 of $267,900.
"...more likely a renter..." I have never paid as much as one month's rent.
"Even before the mortgage crisis hit some studies showed it is more cost effective to rent than to own if it is only about the money." I'll prefer to take Judy Savage's, Carol Clarke's, Dave Phillip's, and Jim Duncan's word that now is the time first-time home buyers should stop paying rent.
" They should pay more than their fair share since they are in the business of making money." So are farmers. So is anybody else who works.
If the new owner of Seven Oaks homesteads, won't she be able to benefit from the homesteaders legislation that you've endorsed?
"I think you missed the entire point of my comment that we the people need to be able to place restraints on our ¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??elected¢Ã¢â??¬ representives to force them to practice fiscal responsibility because once in office they seem to spend like ¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??drunken sailors¢Ã¢â??¬." I missed that great point because you didn't make it. There is a town meeting Monday, February 25, 2008 at 7 PM at the Albemarle County Office Building that many will find very interesting. The fairness of the assessment process and the controls that should be placed on the tax rates will be discussed in open forum and you will not be limited to 3 minutes in order to express your ideas. It's non-partisan or multi-partisan. It will be very unwise for everybody's sake for the tax payers to fall for the divide-and-conquor tactics implicit in this new homesteader act. The problems of the implementation of the real estate taxing powers in VA is what needs fixing. Check out www.votors.org for an alternate idea that should be a great interest to family farmers.

"Do you really think farmers are getting rich farming?" I don't know what they're getting rich off of but I don't see them standing in the welfare lines. Our votes will not cancel each others because we don't get to vote. So, the homeowner gets a 20% deduction on his tax bill. What's to keep the County from raising the rate to a $1.00 per $100 and pass the $.80 per $100 on to the homeowner? Isn't that more than the $.68 per $100 he pays now? i know you're busy with farming but I think you and your like-minded friends would do well to understand the relationship between assessments and tax rates and the current Virginia law governing both.

Obviously you are not aware of the tax rules that govern the sale of a primary residence currently in place that allows a couple to "shelter" up to 500K of any profit from the sale. There is no longer rolling into another more expensive house. Why do you think all the developers build themselves a new house every two years or so in an up market. No capital gains.

There is nothing unusual about "here" only that the university drives the market and very wealthy individuals seem to like it here which taken together have driven up the price of housing forcing the trade folks and fixed income elderly people to be forced to move out of the county because they cannot afford the real estate taxes even if they own their house outright. My proposals would help these folks.

Do you really think farmers are getting rich farming? Give me a break. Their only positive outlook is the value of their property which is being diminished by the new ordinances that dictate what they can do with it.

The new owners of Seven Oaks as you know would be paying a princely sum ($86,250) of real estate taxes based on their purchase price of 12.5M. Only thereafter would their tax burden be kept in check as long as they own the place based on my proposals.

I think I have made my point very clearly to those of a like opinion about tax and spend policies and the only solace I take from your repeated comments in these forums is that my vote will cancel out yours.

Cville zzzzzEye your arguments are invalid as I am sure you are aware. Yes, all primary residences should get the same benefit. Please provide your sources of how many families move into Virginia buy a house then move away within three years relative to any other state in the union and of course this would be a negative financial move to do so now and for the immediate future. Also, relative to the maintenance and other costs of owning a home the tax write offs do not compensate especially considering home values are going down in most parts of the country and not up. I would guess you are neither an accountant or a homeowner; more likely a renter. Even before the mortgage crisis hit some studies showed it is more cost effective to rent than to own if it is only about the money. I believe that locally the 15% per year assessment increases that have occurred over the past 5 years is totally ridiculous and probably based on faulty and self serving data. Where did all that additional revenue go? Now that the cash cow is forced on a diet local government cannot( without a riot) trump up unfounded assessment increases to feed their spending. Too bad. They, like the state will have to reach in their coffers of millions of dollars from past over taxing to maintain their ever increasing budget. I wonder what would happen if a majority of property owners would obtain an appraisal and contest their assessment. Log jam I suspect. Peaceful protest.

It is not fair to the homeowner that corporations get all the breaks just because they can afford lobbyists. They should pay more than their fair share since they are in the business of making money. These are also the same folks that can afford the 12M Seven Oaks estate that if and when sold will be factored into next years assessment increase. BTW, it is assessed at 4M+; what is that all about? I wish the tax assessor had under assessed my property by two thirds.

I think you missed the entire point of my comment that we the people need to be able to place restraints on our "elected" representives to force them to practice fiscal responsibility because once in office they seem to spend like "drunken sailors".

If times were really hard, the staff wouldn't be getting a raise.

Here is a site that gives concise information about bills concerning taxes introduced in the House of Delegates this year. There are several that deal with controlling local real estate tax rates. http://www.richmondsunlight.com/bills/tags/tax/

Thank god they are giving the teachers and other employees a raise! And I mean that seriously...it allows the employees to receive a cost of living increase, because life isn't getting any cheaper. If the county cannot maintain competitive during these harder times, they will see people quit and services will fall even further than they have already.

Hey Rambo...do you realize all the fuel efficient vehicles they have purchased recently? As far as I can tell, there haven't been that many truck type purchases. And those that were purchased seem to do tasks that require towing and 4x4 capabilities. We live in a rural county. It is hard to get around when you are stuck in the mud, can't climb that hill, or can't tow your equipment to maintain the parks.

Step back into reality, because your la-la land is distorting your perception.

As I have said before, maybe they will have to cut back on the take-home gas guzzling 4x4 extended wheelbase trucks, Suburbans, Expeditions, Explorers, and Tahoes they have been buying so many of in the last few years. Spending was totally out of control just in vehicle purchases alone.

Who are the non-governmental workers who will receive a cost-of-living raise this year?
"One office they do need to create is a taxpayer advocate that has the right to review and call into question any purchase/contract at any time." I'm enjoying the Schilling Show on AM 1070 from 1 to 2 PM weekdays and 6 to 9 Am on Saturday mornings just before the Snow's Garden Center Show. I like hearing what the officials won't tell.