Monthly Archive for February, 2010

County Staff Submit Budget Proposal

Albemarle County staff have submitted their budget proposal to the Board of Supervisors, Brandon Shulleeta writes in the Progress. That $294M proposal (available on the county’s website) is based on the wishes of the BoS, and it cuts real estate taxes, which means sharply cutting school funding, fire county staff, and shut down construction project. There are cuts clear to core county services. The total cut in spending is $10M from this year’s budget, and is based on the same 74.2¢ real estate tax rate that we’ve got now. (You’d think that would result in the same level of income, but reduced home values mean less revenue.) That’s a savings of $91 per household.

This budget is really just the starting point for a debate, which is to say how tolerant that citizens will be of either an increase in the tax rate or a decrease in services. For instance, something like a hundred teachers will probably be laid off (a pretty sizable layoff in Albemarle), and you can expect parents to raise hell about that. On the revenue side, the debate will probably be over whether we should retain the existing taxation rate or the existing dollar value. Bumping the rate from 74.2¢ to 76.6¢ would leave property owners paying the same amount in taxes next year as this year, which would likewise leave the county with the same amount in revenue. With a conservative majority on the board, it’s a fair bet that the 74.2¢ rate is going to stick when they set the budget, but expect a lot of angry meetings between now and then.

Snow Throws Down in Library Dispute

From the “Oh, No, I Know You Didn’t Just Say That” files comes Brandon Shulleeta’s article about Supervisor Duane Snow’s threat against the Jefferson Madison Regional Library:

If they can’t find 5 percent from each [library] system to reduce hours, to buy less books and keep all the libraries open and they’re insisting on closing one or two libraries, I would be in favor of not giving them any money — until they got those things figured out.

Yes, that’s right: if the library system closes the lowest-trafficked Albemarle branch to cope with Albemarle cutting their funding, Duane Snow wants to simply eliminate all of the county funding to the library system.

An explanation is in order here. JMRL is an intergovernmental organization, their existence premised on funding from four municipalities, with a Board of Trustees that governs the organization. The services provided to each municipality are a function of the extent to which they contribute to the JMRL budget. The Board of Trustees is made up of representatives who are appointed by each municipality. (In the brief time in which I served on the JMRL board, for instance, I was appointed by City Council.) There are three members appointed by the Albemarle Board of Supervisors: Gary Grant, Timothy Tolson, and Tony Townsend. These are the three signatories to the JMRL board letter to the county in which they explain why they’ll need to close the Scottsville branch, which, in brief, is because there’s nothing else that they can cut.

Functionally, what Snow is saying here is that he wants to bypass the board of trustees and manage JMRL directly and, if they won’t permit that, he’ll shut down the library system. Unless the rest of the BoS reins in Snow, then I wouldn’t dare guess how this standoff ends.

City Police Launch Web-Based Crime Map

The Charlottesville Police Department is mapping all crime reports, CBS-19 reports. Their CrimeView website allows people to map selected classes of crimes over selected a period in selected parts of the city, which means that citizens can keep tabs on trends in a way that would not otherwise be possible. Particularly useful is the “CyberWatch” feature, which allows you to enter your e-mail address, location, and a radius, which will e-mail you to notify you of any crimes reported within that area. (Albemarle County already provides a very similar service by having syndicate their data.) Unfortunately, the resulting maps can’t be embedded on other websites and also lack unique URLs, so you can’t share the output, which really limits its utility, but it’s still a big improvement.

The Actual Revenue Sharing Agreement

With all of this talk about the revenue sharing agreement between the city and the county, it seemed best to actually take a look at the thing. I asked city spokesman Ric Barrack for a copy, and Jeanne Cox was kind enough to provide to have a copy scanned in—it’s old enough that it exists only on paper—and sent along to share with y’all, managing to do so in just over 24 hours. This is the revenue sharing agreement:

Let’s see who can spot some interesting tidbits in here.

Surviving a Power Outage with Sanity Intact?

Reader E.B. writes:

“How we survived without power” has been a hot topic in my workplace the last few days, as it has been for many others, I’m sure. While we all (by now) know the obvious things (batteriest, kerosense, wood for the stove, etc.), I’ve heard some good suggestions that I wish I’d known about and/or never thought of in the first place (for me, it was to have a french press coffee maker). What are some ideas for things to have on hand, recipes, tips for entertaining children, etc?

I know I beefed up my preparedness list last weekend, adding candle holders, hand sanitizer, and Sterno.



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