Charlottesville City Council met for a special meeting Tuesday to approve the budget ordinance for fiscal year 2023. During the brief 20 minute meeting, Council members passed the budget unanimously, along with resolutions to increase the real estate tax by one cent and set the personal property tax relief percentage for tax year 2022 at 32 percent.
Between Sept. 15 and April 7, City Council convened several times with budget staffers to discuss and prepare its final budget. In addition to these budget work sessions, Council has invited community members to express their mixed sentiments on the budget public hearings.
The final budget totals $212 million. Budget priorities for the 2023 fiscal year were intentionally planned to correlate with the City’s strategic goals focused on creating an inclusive community, a healthy city, a sustainable natural environment and a strong and diversified economy, according to the City website.
The approved budget allocates nearly $9.8 million to various affordable housing initiatives, including providing funding to the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program and earmarking funds to be spent on building affordable housing projects. The fiscal year 2022 budget, in comparison, dedicated $6.5 million to affordable housing initiatives.
The 2023 budget allocated $12.3 million to the Parks and Recreation department, $14 million to the Charlottesville Fire Department and $20 million to the Charlottesville Police Department.
Mayor Lloyd Snook expressed confidence in the budget.
“I will confess that I have not gone over every number in the document that was prepared for us today but I have confidence that it is all correct.” Snook said.
Interim City Manager Michael Rogers also expressed his satisfaction with the budget in a press release published following the meeting.
“I believe that this budget reflects the priorities of the community and Council,” Rogers said. “It reflects a significant investment in our workforce, the organization’s capacity to get the work done, affordable housing and schools.”
The 2023 budget includes $62.9 million for operational support for Charlottesville City schools. The school reconfiguration project has been a major talking point for councilors in previous sessions due to its $75 million proposed price tag, and the five-year Capital Improvement Plan allocates $68.8 million total to school reconfiguration,.
With the project approved by City Council and the Charlottesville School Board, the reconfiguration project will create a new preschool center on the campus of what is currently Walker Upper Elementary School, return fifth graders to elementary school rather than middle school and modernize Buford Middle School to be used for 6th through 8th graders. Other priorities include a focus on student programming and increasing staff compensation to attract and retain qualified teachers.
Notably, the budget includes City funding for community nonprofits through the Vibrant Community Fund, which provides support for local agencies that provide necessary services to the Charlottesville community. Among the nonprofits supported by the VCF are the Public Housing Association of Residents, Paramount Theater and Offender Aid & Restoration.
In order to fund the budget’s expenditures, the real estate property tax will be raised by one cent per $100 dollars of the Real Estate Assessor Office’s estimated value of the property. With the increase, the real estate tax will go from 95 cents to 96 cents per $100 of assessed value.
Snook spoke up during the meeting to say that while he voted in favor of the ordinance, he remains worried that the tax will burden taxpayers due to increasing real estate assessments.
“I will note simply that I disagree with raising the real estate tax by one cent, but given the fact that we just passed a budget that now has to be funded, I will be voting yes,” Snook said. “That doesn’t change my underlying feeling, but we do have to balance the budget.”
In addition to passing the real estate tax, the Council passed a resolution to set the personal property tax relief percentage for tax year 2022 at 32 percent. The resolution says that for eligible personal property — namely, vehicles — an individual’s tax bill will be reduced by 32 percent on the first $20,000. Vehicles valued at $1,000 or less will receive 100 percent tax relief.
Finally, the meals tax will increase from six percent to 6.5 percent on July 1. Currently, all businesses in the City are required to levy a six percent tax on all prepared food and beverages, including alcoholic drinks.
Now that budget season is over and the City has an operational budget, Council will resume trandational meetings on the first and third Mondays of each month at 4:00 p.m.