It’s a plan that needs some tweaking.
The Charlottesville City Council is considering changing its proposed budget for 2023 even as its adoption day fast approaches. These changes include adjustment of tax rates and budget changes.
The city is forecasting a surplus of at least $12 million from the current year and that has changed some of the ways councilors view the next budget, Mayor Lloyd Snook said during a business meeting on Thursday. evening.
A change does not increase the property tax rate by 10 cents per $100 of estimated property value, a rate the city had previously announced.
“One of the questions that people have asked repeatedly since we started having this conversation last week, when it looked like we would have enough money without raising taxes, has been ‘why the hell are we have you all been scared to death with this new 10 cent tax hike? said Snook.
“We generally haven’t tried to factor into our thinking a surplus that we expect in the fiscal year we’re in now,” he said. “This surplus is generally not fully known.”
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Most councilors expressed support for a one-cent property tax rate hike to increase taxpayers’ money to fund future projects. This would save the city from having a big increase in property taxes next year.
The proposed 10-cent increase was voted on when the board focused on funding the renovation and expansion of Buford Middle School. Currently, councilors are considering new plans for financing the school reconfiguration project that would not require raising the property tax by 10 cents.
In a working session last week, Krisy Hammill, senior budget and management analyst, offered two funding scenarios. In one, the city would use $54 million in bond funds along with $14.8 million from other sources of cash. The alternative scenario would require the city to use $50 million in bond funds with $18.8 million coming from other sources of cash.
Those sources would include potential American Rescue Act plan funds from schools and surplus funds from the current budget, which the city estimates at more than $12 million.
The reconfiguration project option proposed by the school board is estimated at $76.8 million. An alternative $68.8 million option was presented by the developer, but would delay construction of one of Buford’s buildings that includes the auditorium.
“[I support] a one-cent property tax increase for a fund that goes directly to schools,” Councilwoman Sena Magill said. “I know we have this surplus, but I don’t count my chickens.”
Snook said he opposes any increase in the property tax rate due to rising property assessments in the city. Home assessments in Charlottesville have increased by an average of 11.69%. This will automatically increase tax bills, even if the tax rate does not change.
“I think it’s hard to tell voters that we’re going to charge you money that we don’t actually need this year. We might need it next year, but we want it this year and we’re going to stay in the bank,” Snook said. “We take voters’ money and put it in our bank account, not theirs.”
Councilors expressed general support for a 0.05% increase in the meal tax rate, with most councillors, with the exception of Vice Mayor Juandiego Wade, wanting to keep the property tax rate the same.
The city also reviewed potential amendments to the budget. One would award $300,000 to the Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Deputy City Manager Ashley Marshall, who leads the department, said there was no line item for the department in the original budget. Previous studies and municipal discussions support this funding.
“The funding allocated to it would provide support for team members, including a community health worker who would be responsible for providing housing navigation support specifically for people who are homeless,” Marshall said.
The money would also be used for training.
“It’s how to make sure we treat our community with excellence,” Marshall said. “The training I have chosen has deep meaning and would advance the organization and the thought process and mission for racial equity, diversity and inclusion.”
Councilors also discussed allocating a surplus of $2 million for the expansion of the CAT bus line and $1 million to create a municipal management fund. The money would allow a permanent city manager, who the city plans to hire this year, to institute his own ideas when he arrives.
“I didn’t think it was something the city manager could spend on his own initiative without consulting council,” Snook said. “With consultation with the Council, there is money [so] the new city manager might say, “this is the direction I want to be able to go, I want to be able to go now and not next year”. Boom, we’re ready.