About the Show
Welcome to Let’s Talk Albemarle. I’m your host, Serena Gruia. I’m the public engagement coordinator with Albemarle County in beautiful central Virginia. Every day I learn more about local government and our community. I have spoken with so many people who really want to get involved in local governance, but don’t know where to start. Well, it is my hope that this podcast is a starting point to supporting community participation, and for those of you who are already super engaged, a chance to dig into important topics.
I would love to hear from you. Call or email me to share your constructive feedback, suggest a topic, or ask a question you have about Albemarle County's local government! 434-296-5841 x3274 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s Talk, Albemarle!
In this episode, we have a special guest host, the director of Communications and Public Engagement, Emily Kilroy, who will have a conversation with County Executive Jeff Richardson about the proposed fiscal year 2023 budget and how it seeks to meet the strategic needs of the community. We’ll also learn about Mr. Richardson’s career in public service, and what inspires and motivates him to do the work.
Visit the Albemarle County Budget Development Webpage
What are some of the fiscal drivers in this year’s budget?
- Real property assessments increased 8.4%
- Consumer-driven taxes, like sales tax, food and beverage tax, and transit occupancy, which is what you pay when staying at a hotel or inn, are up 17.1%
- Business-driven taxes, like our business licenses and business personal property
- We look at key indicators – consumer-driven tax revenues, TOT and meals for tourism, building permits and certificates of occupancy, the unemployment rate – and we look for trends, anomalies, how we compare to peers.
- Overall, our economic fundamentals are strong, and in most sectors, the indicators have not only recovered but are above where they were prior to the pandemic – and we expect that to continue.
- We recently had our credit rating affirmed by Moody’s, Fitch, and S&P at the highest, AAA level. That rating reflects the risk to investors in buying the debt that the County issues to fund capital projects – and the AAA rating means that our financial management is top-notch. That rating allows us to issue debt at more competitive rates, meaning we can afford to make more investments in our community.
What are some programs and projects that you would highlight in the budget recommendation?
- Transportation Leveraging - put local dollars to leverage state and federal dollars to address road capacity and safety, bike and pedestrian facilities
- Broadband – with state funding, we have a plan in place to achieve near-universal broadband
- Economic Development
- Biscuit Run Park
- New Courthouse at Court Square downtown.
- Community Response Team, led by the Department of Social Services
- Urban service delivery – we want to keep our development areas vibrant and so we’re increasing service levels for road maintenance
- Quality Government Operations – which is where we fund customer-focused process improvements and systems that underpin the programs and services we offer for the community.
How is the budget balanced?
- The real property tax is the largest local revenue source for Albemarle County. The real property tax rate is recommended to remain at its current level, 85.4 cents per $100 assessed value.
This is the first budget that includes the revenues from the Cigarette Tax, which the Board passed last year and took effect on January 1.
This budget also includes another new tax, a plastic bag tax, which would charge 5 cents for every plastic bag given at stores and takeaway restaurants.
The tax rates for Food & Beverage, sometimes called the Meals Tax, and Transient Occupancy are recommended to increase in this budget. Thousands of people visit our community for vacations, sporting events, weddings and to visit our natural and historic resources. We’re also a regional hub for commercial activity. Increasing our taxes in these two areas means that we can begin to shift revenues away from the people who live here and spread it out more broadly to those who are visiting our community – and who benefit from our infrastructure, public safety, and amenities.
There’s one more tax rate that’s recommended to change this year, and it’s recommended to decrease from 2021. Tell us what’s recommended for personal property, and why.
- Nationally, due to supply chain issues and material shortages, used car prices have skyrocketed – 40% across the nation. In Albemarle, used car valuations increased on average 26%. Under the state code, we are required to assess personal property at fair market value – which means that, even though most people view their cars as a depreciating asset, if we did not adjust the tax rate, everyone in the community with a vehicle would receive an unexpected bill later this year.
- It’s responsible because we do not anticipate that this increase in valuations of vehicles is going to sustain – we believe it is a short-term shock in that sector driven by supply chain and material shortages due to the pandemic.
- The personal property tax rate applies to individual vehicles, motorcycles, mobile homes, and boats, as well as business tangible personal property and machinery and tools. Reducing this rate will have a positive impact across the board for people and businesses in our community.