The new normal is one where more and more business is being conducted online and that includes local meetings. Last week, the elected bodies in Albemarle and Greene held public hearings and took comments virtually. While we would prefer these meetings to be held in person, there is no end in sight yet for the social distancing restrictions that are helping to limit the spread of COVID-19.
I’m returning back to the ‘daily’ format for this email update because the number of scheduled meetings is beginning to increase again.
Monday, April 20, 2020
Charlottesville City Council meets for the first time in nearly a month with a virtual meeting that will be conducted via a Zoom teleconference. Unlike the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, Councilors will still hold a general public comment period at the beginning of the meeting. The main topic for the meeting is an amended budget for fiscal year 2021. Council will vote on a resolution to extend the deadline to adopt to June 30, 2020. The deadline to pay property, personal property and other taxes will be extended to June 19.
City budget staff now project a $5 million shortfall for FY21, rather than the revenue increase that had been expected before the pandemic began. City Manager Tarron Richardson is recommending deferring further investments in the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for FY21, setting aside $7 million for future reserves to fill future shortfalls. I’m told that may not mean that no projects would move forward. We’ll just have to wait for the details. One big question is what this might mean for the Belmont Bridge replacement, which had been close to going to bid. The CIP for FY21 had a line item for $5 million to help cover shortfalls associated with the project.
As with Albemarle, the FY21 budget will be based on a FY20 spending plan that must be amended to reflect about $3.5 million in revenue shortfalls caused by drastically lower meals tax, lodging tax, recreation income, and other sources. The original line items for several nonprofit agencies have been stripped for now, though the budget contains $2.1 million in a line item called “unallocated Vibrant Community Funds” and another $154,446 in unallocated arts funding. Council will decide how to use that money.
Richardson’s proposed budget for FY21 proposed cutting funds for many nonprofit agencies that had been slated for funding, ranging from Big Brothers / Big Sisters to the Women’s Initiatives.
If Council goes along with this plan, a public hearing would be held on May 18, 2020. There are a lot of questions to ask between now and then. There are many questions. We’ll be eager to hear more details at the meeting. (recommended FY20 and FY21 budget amendments)
On the consent agenda is a resolution to appropriate $2 million in state and federal grants for Charlottesville Area Transit. The money will be used for an on-board surveillance system and to hire a consultant to study the transit system and routes. There are a lot of details in the staff report, including a note that a public hearing could have been scheduled at the Metropolitan Planning Organization. “No public hearing was requested,” reads the report. We would have requested one if we had known there was an opportunity. (staff report)
The consent agenda also contains a quarterly report from the director of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority. The note from Bill Mawyer states that the drinking water supply is safe.
“We are working closely with [Charlottesville] Utilities staff to maintain all drinking water and wastewater treatment services,” Mawyer wrote. I urge anyone interested in knowing where your drinking water comes from to read through these reports and take an interest. (report)
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors appears to be meeting in person tonight, though the public can only participate remotely. All seven Supervisors were present at the April 6 meeting. A public hearing on the budget at which five people spoke via telephone. They were speaking in favor of a fire and rescue station in the Mineral district that may have funding delayed due to budget shortfalls.
On April 6, Louisa Supervisor adopted a continuity of government ordinance and discussed the possibility of meeting remotely, but they appear to be moving ahead in person with tonight’s meeting. They will adopt a budget for FY21 and will hold two public hearings. (agenda)
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
The Albemarle Economic Development Authority will hold a regular electronic meeting at 4:00 p.m. They will adopt a resolution authorizing the use of $200,000 in economic development funds for a Business Recovery Fund that will be used by the Charlottesville Investment Collaborative to make microloans to struggling businesses. They will also approve a performance agreement for a public-private partnership for a portion of the Albemarle Business Campus across from the County’s office building on Fifth Street Extended. Supervisors authorized the EDA to proceed last week, even though a necessary rezoning for the project has not been approved yet. (Zoom link for meeting)
While there are no Charlottesville meetings, the city’s communications department will host another episode of Cville360 at 11:00 a.m. The show always begins with an update on COVID-19 from Charlottesville Fire Chief Andrew Baxter. Guests on this program include City Councilor Michael Payne and City Manager Tarron Richardson. Register to ask questions for the Zoom call here.
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will be given details of an amended budget for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021. Keep in mind we are currently in FY20, and County Executive Jeffrey Richardson told Supervisors on April 15 that he will need to cut at least $3 million from the general government budget. There is a $5.7 million shortfall going into the next fiscal year. Details are not yet available. This electronic meeting will begin at 3:30 p.m. The agenda is not yet posted. Register for the Zoom call here.
Thursday, April 23, 2020
The Cville360 program will be live at 4:00 p.m. and will feature information about the Census and on mental health resources in the community. Register to ask a question here.
Other things of note
Albemarle County’s draft Climate Action Plan is ready for public comment. In the fall of 2018 the Board of Supervisors made climate change the number one strategic priority. They also adopted a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and to have no emissions by 2050.
“The Climate Action Plan maps our path to get there,” reads the web page where you can review the draft and watch a seven-minute video on what’s in the plan. One thing to keep in mind is that the county will freeze up to 35 positions, starting with ones that have not yet been filled. One of those positions is the job of climate change coordinator. (climate action page)
Stay tuned. We’ll update this page as we can.
As always, thank you, and please reach out to me if you have any questions!
Field Representative – Albemarle, Charlottesville and Greene
The Piedmont Environmental Council