Albemarle County officials estimate that the county will have to reduce spending by about $6.24 million this fiscal year due to shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the first all-electronic meeting of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors amid the pandemic, County Jeff Richardson gave the board an economic update for the current year and the upcoming budget.
Richardson said during the next three months the school division will have to reduce spending by about $2.64 million, the general government will have to reduce spending by $3.02 million and capital projects will have to be reduced by about $580,000.
“We are already working on this,” he said. “Staff has been working on it for a while.”
Richardson said county staff and school division staff are having a meeting Friday morning to discuss how this affects the current and proposed budgets. He said they will freeze vacant positions between now and the end of the year and evaluate capital projects, with the goal of using no or minimal reserves this current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
In February, county staff had estimated local revenues to exceed the amount projected in the proposed fiscal year 2021 budget. Richardson said that the county is now estimating local revenues will be down by about $6.8 million from the initial proposed budget numbers, with much of the decrease coming from “consumer driven” revenues.
For next year, the school division will have to cut its budget by about $3.38 million, the general government will have to cut about $2.5 million and about $850,000 will have to be cut from capital projects.
The board had already approved delaying the fiscal year 2021 budget adoption to May 14. The budget originally was scheduled to be approved April 20.
On April 13, the board will hold a budget and calendar year 2020 tax rate public hearing. The board is then scheduled to set the calendar year 2020 tax rate at its regular meeting on April 15.
“My goal shortly after [April 15] is to provide you with an adjusted new proposed budget for next year that would reflect the staff’s recommendations for how we make these cuts in order to match with the revenue losses that we now have,” Richardson said.
During Wednesday’s electronic meeting, which was conducted on the video conferencing website Zoom and was also available for the public to view on the county’s website, no one from the public spoke. A chat window on the Zoom meeting was trolled with racist and homophobic remarks until public access to the chat was ended.
The board on Wednesday approved authorizing Richardson to sell the county’s half interest in a property at 701 East Market Street to the city of Charlottesville for a future parking garage for $1.28 million.
In 2018, Charlottesville and Albemarle executed a memorandum of agreement to keep the county’s courts in Downtown Charlottesville and to construct a new co-located General District Court. The agreement specifically requires the city to provide the county with 90 parking spaces for its use in a new downtown garage to be constructed and in operation by November 30, 2023.
Charlottesville City Council approved spending the funds in December, despite pushback from the city’s Planning Commission and other residents.
If the city doesn’t meet deadlines for the garage, it must provide 100 dedicated spaces in the existing Market Street Parking Garage, return ownership of Albemarle’s half of the purchased parcel to the county and pay the county the other half of the appraisal value or give the county sole control of the whole property.
The board also voted to defer waiving rent for tenants in three county owned facilities in Crozet until its May 6 meeting.
The Old Crozet School Arts and The Field School of Charlottesville, which rent space in the Old Crozet Elementary School, The Crozet Artisan Depot, which rents space in the Old Crozet Train Depot, and Staengl Engineering and Crozet Running, which rent space at the Crozet Library, were proposed to all have their rents waived for April and May.
A review by the county’s executive incident management team found that a two-month waiver of rents, which would result in a $28,111.90 loss of revenue, would not be detrimental to the county’s financial well being, according to a staff report.
Lance Stewart, the county’s director of facilities and environmental services, said two tenants wrote to the county to ask about waivers.
Many Supervisors felt that it was too soon to start waving rents.
“I just don’t want to be seen as looking as if we’re picking and choosing” Supervisor Diantha McKeel said.