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.

19 thoughts on “County Staff Submit Budget Proposal”

  1. The county budget for the 2002-03 fiscal year was $209M. The proposed $294M represents a 40% increase in only eight years. The population of the county has grown no more than 10% in those eight years.

    Why can’t the county make ends meet with such an enormous windfall?

  2. It may look like a windfall in nominal dollars, but you have to use real, inflation-adjusted dollars if you want to do a meaningful comparison.

    Compounding published US inflation-rate figures for 2002-2008 yields an inflation effect over the period of ~22%.

    Applying a 12% increase to that to account for population growth[1] yields an approximate expected baseline increase of 36%. Thus, a zero-growth-rate budget in real terms, relative to 2002, should be around $285M.

    That “windfall” now looks more like ~3%, which I surmise could be whittled down further by an accounting for the varying level to which the County is exposed to specific elements within the overall inflation rate (e.g. fuel, which his risen at a rate higher than core inflation).

    [1] indicates the County population grew by 12% from 2000-2008. Assuming reasonably linear growth 2000-2010, 12% should work as an approximation for 2002-2010.

  3. I’m curious to see if the 99 teachers are the only staff cuts in the budget. Because if they are I think it’s time to call BS. If there aren’t other staff and admins then this is nothing but a return to the Kabuki theater of budget season.

    I’m not saying that it isn’t serious just that when they always lead with teachers cuts and nothing else it makes me think that FUD is all they have. I expect more wide ranging cuts that could honestly discussed.

  4. Perlogik, you can satisfy your curiosity. You can read the budget. Or the DP reports about the budget.

    “About 45 employees in total are slated to lose their jobs, including bus drivers, five central office employees and two principals, among others. Two elementary school principals will be cut, in the School Board’s plan, by having a single full-time principal serve Yancey and Scottsville elementary schools, with a second principal serving Red Hill and Murray elementary schools.”

  5. Cecil thanks for pointing me in that direction. I read this from chairman Price:
    which talks about 5 Central office but not if they are admins.- the could be computer techs for all I know or high paid admins. Albemarle was rated as a very overstaffed central office in a survey about 2 years ago and it’s difficult to tell what adjustments have been made. It would be nice if they referenced that. They talk about the barest of admin staff however I have no real point of reference- I could very well be wrong but it difficult to tell from what I have read.

    What really gets me is the members of the Albemarle school board who voted against the teachers and childern of Albemarle and did not support the Delegate Bell bill that would bring 2.8 million to the Albemarle schools. I find that in these tight economic times that vote is unexplainable and may violate the basic sprit of the oath of office those school board memeber took. They did not stand up for the childern that day.

  6. Perlogik, I’m not sure why you’re not just looking at the summary of the budget reductions, which is not hard to find (just go to the ACPS website). It names the exact positions on the chopping block. People complain that there’s no transparency, but it’s all there, with dollar amounts attached.

    In regards to Brian Wheeler’s vote against supporting Bell’s bill: your perspective is that he’s not “stand[ing] up for children” (which, to my mind, is a surreal thing to say about Brian Wheeler, but whatever). Another perspective is that he felt that the bill was not the best way to go about getting a quick solution to the problem of counting the County’s $18 million payment to the City against the county. Wheeler (according to his SchoolMatters blog) felt that there was a better legislative strategy, that the city and the county could work something out in the absence of the threat of the bill, and that there might be a downside to winning the $2.8 million that Bell’s bill promises. Bell’s bill is not a slam-dunk–there’s not guarantee it will pass, and the City would probably lawyer up and fight it if it did.

    In other words, Wheeler seems to want the money as much as anyone, but he seems to feel that there might be better ways to get it. Now, that might be a different viewpoint than yours, but I’m not sure how it violates “the basic spirit of the oath of office” that he took. You would need to show me further evidence that Brian Wheeler — of all people, for Christ’s sake — does not “stand up for the childern [sic].”

  7. Jeff, could you share those numbers for inflation?

    22% inflation seems a bit steep for the six years from 2002-2008.

  8. Cecil I agree with Perlogik about Wheeler. It’s not about $2.8 million just this year but every year in the future. It’s about fairness in the composite index. Sorry but Wheeler’s explanation seems weak and an attempt to explain a very partisan vote.

    If it passes this bill will provide 10 of millions of dollars in the next decade and if that isn’t worth fighting for, I don’t know what is. This bill will be a law and Charlottesville’s lawyer won’t be able to do a damn thing about but run up legal bills and spend taxpayer dollars.

  9. fdr,

    Annual inflation rates:

    2002: 1.6%
    2003: 2.3%
    2004: 2.7%
    2005: 3.4%
    2006: 3.2%
    2007: 2.8%
    2008: 3.8%

    Compounded, that’s 22%.

    (Note that 2002-2008, inclusive, is 7 years, rather than 6.)

  10. To put this in perspective, a vote came up recently about whether developers should pay more of the cost of actual staff time for their applications. The proposal on the table would have only increased the amount that developers had to pay up to only a 30% recovery of costs incurred by the county, with other taxpayers covering the remaining 70% of costs.

    You’d think a fiscally minded majority on the BOS would have demanded a 100% cost recovery right? After all, a 70% subsidy sounds to me like “big government” and soclalism. Unfortunately, Snow said he saw the county as being in a “partnership” with developers and that the county needed to “work together and maybe come up with something more reasonable”.

    So, if you’re wondering why Albemarle County is laying off teachers and closing libraries…. Look no further than the mansion on the hill where our county’s business “partner” lives.

  11. To my mind, Dirt Worshipper, that’s the most revealing and hypocritical vote made by the ostensible conservatives on the BoS for a long time.

  12. You can’t simply add 12% to 21.21% to arrive at an aggregate growth rate, nor can you subtract 33.21% from 40.67% to arrive at a net percentage increase.

    112% (population factor) of 121% (inflation factor) is 136%.

    136% of $209M (2002 budget) is $284M.

    $294M (2010 budget) is ~3.5% more than $284M.

    Thus, real, population-adjusted growth was ~3.5%.

    (Precision beyond two significant figures isn’t justifiable given the provided data.)

  13. This may be an oversimplification, but its another example of the present-day culture.
    People do not want more taxes. At the same time they don’t want a decrease in the services and amenities offered by the public sector.
    Both political parties,and both the liberal and the conservative have bought into this mindset.
    Everything costs money. If I see something I wish to buy and the price has increased I have two choices. Pay the higher price or decide to do without whatever it is. Not stand there griping to the merchant.
    Governing bodies should lay it on the table thusly: This is what it will cost.If you don’t think we can afford it, well then we just won’t do it.

  14. I do not believe that 100 teachers will loose their jobs. Why? Because the cost of each teacher is about $75K and 100 * $75K is $7.5MM. And that is 3/4 of the $10MM that the county budget is short. And I seriously doubt that all $10MM is being cut from the schools. I do believe that the school board is using scare tactics to get parents to put pressure of the BOS to fully fund the schools. I also believe that the SB is incapable of curbing their costs. If there are cuts to be made for the schools, then it should be in administrate positions first, then spread equally across all other expenses.

  15. Steve, I agree with you this is just a scare tactic. Normal attrition, retirements, terminations and voluntary quits of classroom teachers will probably take care of any required teacher lay offs. I do agree that the central office could be trimmed by a substantial number of administrators before getting to the classroom teachers. I would rather see assistant principals, and guidance councilors eliminated at schools before actual classroom teachers.

  16. It will be interesting to see if the land use tax break, which last year accounted for 19 million dollars will come up at the budget meetings. I’m somewhat amazed that no one in county government or the school board has brought up the subject and questioned the program’s viability in view of the sharp cuts in services to all of the county residents. After all land use is voluntary on the part of the county and there is no mandate on the part of the state to continue it. I thought with a zero based budget all programs would have to be reviewed. Is the county really telling us that tax breaks for the wealthy are more important then our schools, libraries, police, fire and safety?

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