Council Passes the 2007 Budget

By a 4-1 vote this evening, City Council passed the 2007-8 budget, Henry Graff reports for NBC-29. It came in at a record $122M, requiring a property tax rate of $0.95 per $100 of assessed value. Given assessment increases, that amounts to an average tax increase of 14%. City staff had proposed a $136.5M budget. Councilor Kevin Lynch was the lone dissenter, saying that he simply couldn’t support a $0.95 tax rate.

For more, see the City Budget Office webpage or the city’s press release.

21 Responses to “Council Passes the 2007 Budget”


  • I applaud Kevin Lynch. It’s good to see somebody sticking up for their constituents like this. I hope he runs for another term.

    14% all in one swoop. I’m just shocked that they would do this to their constituents. Is there another ten million dollar bus stop that needs building? This makes me glad that I moved out to the County last year. I’m squeezed for money badly enough in different directions with rising gas prices and what-not. Getting slapped with a 14% property tax hike would have pushed my mortgage payments over what I could manage to make with a family of 4 to support. There are a lot of families in Charlottesville whom Council will hurt with this. People like me who struggled to buy a house in a tough market and just barely manage to make their payments as it stands.

    Where are these families supposed to get the money to pay for this 14% tax hike? Can they stop making their car payments? Can they have their water and electricity disconnected? No. Every month it’s coming out of grocery money. It’s coming out of tuition for their kids’ ballet classes and summer daycare. It’s coming out of the money for new clothes and birthday presents.

    I hope that the other 4 members of Council will reflect on this. On the very real, harmful effect of their wasteful spending on the people who are struggling to get a toe-hold in a city that has increasingly gotten into the habit of giving the finger to anyone with less than a million dollars to their name.

  • Thanks Waldo for the way this post was written. I’m also glad that Jack mentioned that Kevin support a lower rate, which was a little unclear from the post. To often media makes the story about what wasn’t funded giving many people the false impression that the school and city services were left begging for change on the street.

    The city has new big bag of money to spend, I hope they use it wisely.

  • 14% all in one swoop. I’m just shocked that they would do this to their constituents. Is there another ten million dollar bus stop that needs building?

    Apparently the answer is yes there is, a group of residents are trying to get light rail (a streetcar) going down West Main. The project is only at the “study phase” (last time it was in the news). But if there were going to be another big public infrastructure project that we do NOT need I would imagine that would be it. However I don’t think city council has seen a “trophy” project they didn’t like.

  • This is a really big budget. My metric has been the $100M mark. I remember when we hit that a few years back, and I decided to remember that point, to do my best to capture the amber of the moment (to borrow a phrase from Vonnegut) and consider future budgets from that perspective. I absolutely appreciate the need to do things like make our schools ADA compliant and reduce crime in some neighborhoods. But if the last $36.5M didn’t reduce crime, why should the next $36.M?

    I don’t live in the city, so I’m not affected by this budget. But it’s clear that I couldn’t afford to be a homeowner in the city, between housing costs and property taxes. This trend describes a pretty clear path to driving the middle class out of Charlottesville, leaving a service class and an upper class to be served. Clearly that will not be the effect of this year’s budget alone, but that’s the path that we’re on.

  • Waldo since you pay taxes to Charlottesville (revenue sharing) it is your money, you just don’t get vote on who gets to spend it.

    I have thought for some time that between taxes and property values it would drive out many current city residents. The problem is now the county isn’t any cheaper. I believe people will be shocked after the 2010 census in Charlottesville on two fronts: the growth in poplulation and the reduction in african american population as a percentage of overall population.

  • Actually investment in a streetcar would be money well spent. It would bring substantial business and residential development along it’s length and thus more taxes. It would also help reduce congestion and pollution. I only wish that’s what was in this budget.

    I question the need for the city to enter the rescue squad business when volunteers have always done this. There had to be a cheaper solution. We all agree schools are important, but their budget shouldn’t increase so much when enrollment is decreasing. The schools are not used to tightening their belts, and achievement issues are not due to inadequate resources in our school system. The tax assistance program doesn’t help most of the middle-class. The city definitely needs some kind of delayed real estate tax system.

    Kevin Lynch seemed to have it right by saying there were more savings that could have been found that weren’t. The next election needs to focus on budget issues much more than in past years.

  • I agree that Charlottesville taxes and spending are pretty ridiculous, but assuming your property went up in value by the average 14%, the amount you pay (because of the rate drop from .99 to .95) will actually only be up by 9.4% over last year. On a $300K property the increase would be about $280, or a little under $25 a month.

    Nobody wants to pay more in taxes — especially when it is going to pay for $10M bus stops– but is this really a severely life changing amount of cash? If your budget is that tight, what in the world would you do if you were injured, car broke down, etc, etc…

  • Mark,

    This isn’t a one-time expense like a car repair where you dip into savings. A major property tax hike means that the escrow side of your mortgage bill goes up every single month. The money for the family household budget then has to come out of things that had been cash expenses. Most people are pretty well tied into their other monthly bills. What are a typical family’s cash expenses every month? Gas, groceries, various lessons for the kids, etc.

    Most households are probably looking at $30 or so added to their monthly bills. Now it is very easy for many people to dismiss spending $30 as pocket change, but as someone with 2 kids to raise and dentist bills and medical co-payments and pre-school tuition and so on, I can tell you that taking $30 a month out of my monthly budget would pretty well mean living off of canned food from the back of the cabinet for the last week of every month.

    Balanced pretty precariously? Yeah, well, I don’t have a choice. You can’t buy a house in Charlottesville or Albemarle County for less than $200,000. I had to spend $240k to get a falling-down fixer-upper with one bathroom, no living room and no insulation. What are people like me going to get rid of? The electric bill? Phone service? Am I going to shut off the heat all winter?

    This is the reality of trying to raise a family in Albemarle/Charlottesville if you are not a millionaire. You have to reach and reach on your tip-toes to get a home of your own and then it’s all you can do to keep your head above the water. And then a bunch of morons on City Council who think that the world needs a light rail system or whatever decide they’re going to shove your head back under the surface so they can trot their expensive vanity project around like some kind of trophy.

    This city, and increasingly this county, doesn’t want regular people like me around. Every time they take another $30 a month out of my grocery budget and off of my children’s plates they are sending that message loud and clear.

  • From 1995 to 2000 my taxes went up a little over 5% per year; the last five years the tax increase has averaged 16%. Has the increased revenue been well spent? What are the results that we can point to? Are we continuing the upward trend because we need to spend this money, or simply because rising real estate prices allow it?

  • Nobody wants to pay more in taxes — especially when it is going to pay for $10M bus stops– but is this really a severely life changing amount of cash? If your budget is that tight, what in the world would you do if you were injured, car broke down, etc, etc…

    Well, let’s look at this over the course of the lifetime of, say, a mortgage. Let’s pretend that I own a $300k house in the city, and my taxes just went up $280/year. Now, they’re not going to come back down — it’s a one-way street. So they’re up $280/year forever. Now, if I stuck that $280/year in the bank every year, and earn 10% interest annually, after 30 years I’d have $50,219.

    Dang, Mark. That’s a lot of money. In fact, I’d call $50k “a severely life changing amount of cash.” I suspect that’d come in handy if, say, I were injured, or if my car broke down.

    Now, you might say that it’s not fair to aggregate that over the course of 30 years, that the magnifying effect isn’t a reasonable comparison. But that’s exactly what the city’s doing, only they’re aggregating all of Charlottesville’s money in a single year by an extra $280/household. I’m simply performing the same exercise longitudinally.

  • Balanced pretty precariously? Yeah, well, I don’t have a choice.

    Well, that’s just not true. Most cities (and not just big cities! cities like Fairfax now fall squarely into this category) are fairly unlivable for people who don’t make an above average salary. Those people move farther out into the suburbs, and if $30/month is such a severe dent in your budget, that is a choice you have open to you.

    The sense of entitlement, the “it is not fair that X costs so much in the city”, is really irksome to me. Living in the city or any affluent area is not a god-given right. You have the option to live elsewhere, change jobs, pick up a second job, and various other ways to make ends meet.

    Unfair? Yeah, probably. Reality? Dead on.

  • The sense of entitlement, the “it is not fair that X costs so much in the city”, is really irksome to me. Living in the city or any affluent area is not a god-given right. You have the option to live elsewhere, change jobs, pick up a second job, and various other ways to make ends meet.

    Why should the city (which is nothing more than the aggregate of its residents) consciously choose to raise the cost of living so high that the majority will be forced to move out? We are given the choice. What is wrong with making the decision to allow ourselves to continue to live here? It’s true, for instance, that I don’t have a god-given right to live on my land, but I’d be nuts to price myself off of my own property. Nobody would ever do that, any more than a majority should or would make the decision to price themselves out of their own homes and hometowns.

    You also forget about the enormous importance of economic diversity. If a household has to make $60k/year to live in the greater Charlottesville area, who will bag our groceries? Who will wait our tables? Do we really want to live our lives surrounded only by the wealthy? Or is it possible that there’s some benefit to living in a representative slice of Virginia?

    Additionally, there’s no getting around the value of continuity of residence. The longer that somebody can live in the same place, the stronger that the community is. It’s that simple. When you have a neighborhood that consists entirely of people who have moved there from New Jersey or California in the past two years, you’ve got yourself a mighty weak neighborhood, sociologically speaking. Urban planning is all about preventing that sort of thing.

    It’s fine to say in the abstract “market forces dictate that poor people have to leave.” But it’s another to look an life-long friend in the face, a third-generation owner of her home in the city, and say “taxes are going up, old lady, and if you can’t afford ’em on social security, nuts to you — you can go live someplace cheap enough for your kind.”

    Theory breaks down real quick in the face of reality.

  • You also forget about the enormous importance of economic diversity. If a household has to make $60k/year to live in the greater Charlottesville area, who will bag our groceries? Who will wait our tables? Do we really want to live our lives surrounded only by the wealthy? Or is it possible that there’s some benefit to living in a representative slice of Virginia?

    I wondered this myself often living in Fairfax, where a starter townhouse was going for $400k. Somehow, all the fast-food places were still staffed, grocerys still being bagged, etc.. there was no shortage of minimum-wage workers.

    Plenty of people simply commute for 2 hours each way to make ends meet. I knew people who commuted in from West Virginia to work out in Chantilly. That’s the price that is paid. Those people choose to live further away and carpool/commute further in to save on housing costs. As long as people are willing to do that, then I don’t see how it’s going to change.. if people are willing to pay extra for the privilege of living in the city, they will. Those who can’t, for whatever reason, are forced to the suburbs.

    Never said it was fair, it’s just the way it is.

    It’s fine to say in the abstract “market forces dictate that poor people have to leave.” But it’s another to look an life-long friend in the face, a third-generation owner of her home in the city, and say “taxes are going up, old lady, and if you can’t afford ‘em on social security, nuts to you — you can go live someplace cheap enough for your kind.”

    See, that’s the brilliant part.. the city doesn’t have to look anyone in the face. I haven’t been here long, but it certainly doesn’t seem like these guys are getting raked over the coals for the decisions they are making.

  • The City of Charlottesville made a conscious decision in the late 1990s that it needed to expand its tax base and develop a lot more high-cost housing and build no more low-cost housing. That’s the direction that Lynch and Huja and others pushed the City to take. Given the threat of reversion it made sense at the time. But now we’re paying the cost — no one can afford to live here any more except the wealthy. We need elected officials who will stand up for the working people for once. Or at least the ones who are left — most were gentrified out years ago.

  • For the average homebuyer, property taxes constitute about 10-20% of their monthly housing costs. So, it’s good to have people like Lynch thinking about how to reduce that 10-20% burden. But if you want to talk about making Charlottesville a place where regular people can choose to live, you can’t ignore the other 80-90% of the tab and pretend that lowering taxes is the answer to making housing affordable. It may well be the easiest of the nuts to crack, but it’s a fairly small nut in the grand scheme of things.

    Now, for long-time homeowners, who bought their homes years ago when property values were much lower, it’s a different story. On the one hand, many of them have gotten pretty wealthy through relatively little effort of their own. That’s a good thing. However, particularly for those on fixed incomes, theirs is paper wealth that does not translate readily to tax-paying-wealth. This is where tax deferral makes sense. Their incomes are not rising nearly as fast as their property values, so don’t assume they can easily absorb the increasingly higher taxes that result. Instead, let them pay their taxes out of the (largely unearned) windfall that they will realize when they eventually sell their homes.

  • Waldo, believe me I would rather have the $50K in 30 years (even though a 10% interest rate is optimistic and inflation will have degraded its spending power considerably. But I digress…). Anyway, my point was to counter the gloom and doom scenarios put forth by others, which I don’t think help to further the rational discussion of the issue –sorry, Jack– and to try to put this change into context.

    I think it is clear that the City can do a better job with our money. At the same time, I recently purchased a house within the City, so I know that you don’t have to be a millionaire or even particularly wealthy to be a homeowner here — although it would give you more choices.

    For households making

  • Dang, post got cut off. It’s a shame because I am pretty sure it would have brought us all to a consensus and led us to plenty of actionable conclusions that would have solved everyone’s grievances. ;)

  • Plenty of people simply commute for 2 hours each way to make ends meet.

    Ack. That’s terrible. The strain on transportation needs, the requirement for parking, the enormous cost of having to have and maintain an automobile (at pain of losing one’s job), the reliance on foreign oil, the pollution — all of these things are antithetical to Charlottesville and, increasingly, American values.

    There’s a reason why you moved here from Fairfax, Chad. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it had something to do with a) the high cost of living and b) the transportation situation. Why would you want to replicate that here?

    See, that’s the brilliant part.. the city doesn’t have to look anyone in the face. I haven’t been here long, but it certainly doesn’t seem like these guys are getting raked over the coals for the decisions they are making.

    That’s because you haven’t lived here long enough to see a contested election. City Council very much has to look homeowners in the face and justify this. (As everybody willing to support an entirely free market approach to housing here must also be prepared to do, for moral reasons at a minimum.) I’ll be mighty surprised if Holly Edwards (announcing her candidacy today) doesn’t make this a central theme of her campaign.

    This is why I found Rob Schilling’s time on City Council so frustrating. Council ought to have a Republican on at all times, demographically speaking. And having an ostensible fiscal conservative (once upon a time, something common among Republicans) on Council would act as a necessary anchor on spending. But Schilling was totally uninvolved in the budgeting process. He spent his time on Council playing the political equivalent of “I’m not touching you.” He made Republicans look like buffoons. It’ll be years until another Republican can get on Council now, because no Republican with a brain in their head would run, knowing that Schilling is now the town’s template of what a Republican on Council looks like.

  • There’s a reason why you moved here from Fairfax, Chad. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it had something to do with a) the high cost of living and b) the transportation situation. Why would you want to replicate that here?

    That’s exactly why I moved. However, when I was looking for a place down here, I decided not to buy in the city because it was already overpriced. Living 25 minutes outside of the city is far preferable to me, due to the money saved.

    I don’t *want* to replicate it, I’m saying the progress is inevitable.

    As long as Charlottesville is a desirable place to live and keeps getting ranked high in magazines for it, people will move here, those who can afford to live in the city will continue paying for the privilege of doing so, and the cost of living will rise. Given that formula has played out in .. virtually every sizable town in the US .. it’s pretty clear what the writing on the wall reads.

    Unless the city is interested in creating more low-cost housing, and from these comments it certainly sounds like it isn’t the case.. prepare for suburban sprawl. Which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing.. I would like to have more commercial options available to me, Charlottesville seems to have “1” of everything .. one overpriced bowling alley (due to lack of competition), one hardware store (Lowes), etc etc..

    If the growth is coming, the best thing to do is prepare for it. Budget for rail to growing areas (Crozet, Pantops east of 64, Fluvanna, etc) so that you don’t have to continue to play catch-up.

  • I don’t *want* to replicate it, I’m saying the progress is inevitable.

    I don’t know that “progress” is necessarily the word. :)

    As long as Charlottesville is a desirable place to live and keeps getting ranked high in magazines for it, people will move here, those who can afford to live in the city will continue paying for the privilege of doing so, and the cost of living will rise. Given that formula has played out in .. virtually every sizable town in the US .. it’s pretty clear what the writing on the wall reads.

    I prefer to think that we can learn from the mistakes of others and avoid repeating the errors of the past. Call me an optimist. :)

  • I don’t know that “progress” is necessarily the word. :)

    Point taken.. change that to ‘growth’. :)

    I prefer to think that we can learn from the mistakes of others and avoid repeating the errors of the past. Call me an optimist. :)

    I’m fairly pessimistic since I’ve had it happen to towns I’ve lived in numerous times.. the good part is it’ll take a good 5-10 years before the traffic begins to become truly unbearable. Plenty of time to develop infrastructure to support the influx of people, and develop more low-income housing areas.

    With the tax rate increases though, the city/county has no real leg to stand on if they claim there’s not enough $ in the budget to make it happen. It’s not a question of $, it’s a question of foresight, ability to plan, and willingness to follow through.

    That’s where I’m pessimistic. :(

Comments are currently closed.

Sideblog