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City budget process under new management

Charlottesville’s budget is under new management as the yearly process of balancing expenses and income for the next fiscal year falls onto the city council’s shoulders.

As the city moves forward with a new interim city manager from the Robert Bobb Group, LLC, the hired firm and city staff will be working together to tackle the funding plan.

“The budget process is basically a never ending cycle. We work on this all year long,” city senior budget analyst Krisy Hammill told the council at an all-day retreat on Wednesday.

One issue facing council in the budget is how to adjust tax rates and tax increases. The city is discussing the possibility of a 10-cent real estate tax rate increase to help pay for the city schools reconfiguration project.

The proposal would add 10 cents in taxes on every $100 of assessed value. Currently, the tax rate is 95 cents for every $100.

Even without a rate increase, property owners in the city could face a 10% or higher tax hike.

City property reassessments were released Thursday with city residential properties increasing an average of 11.69% in assessed value. If the city left the current tax rate alone, property owners could see their property taxes increase, said City assessor Jeff Davis.

The upcoming budget season will be led by consultant Michael C. Rogers who will serve as interim city manager and take the lead on the budget as soon as he starts his position on Jan. 31. Hammill, and city staff, have already been working on it for months.

The city manager is typically the point person in charge of creating budget and explaining it to City Council. The city hired a firm, the Robert Bobb Group, LLC, in late December to take over the managerial duties and that other vacant high level city staff positions.

The group is working with the council to find a permanent city manager. The council has had stormy relationships with managers, which has led to five city managers, including interim appointees, leaving since 2018.

The decision to hire a firm to perform interim city manager duties came after former City Manager Chip Boyles resigned in October, and the city’s candidate for interim city manager, Marc Woolley, pulled out of the position before his start date.

Part of the city’s reasoning for hiring a firm was specifically to have solid budget leadership in place.

The proposed budget is to be completed on Valentine’s Day.

“Feb. 14 is essentially the magic date by which we will have the budget balanced,” she said. “We take the departmental submissions, the budget guidelines, council priorities that have been set forth, we use projections and forecasts, all of that goes into the creation of the proposed document. And that’s all done between the city manager and staff and then is presented to council.”

Hammill said city code requires the city manager present the budget to the council by March 15.

The city will hold its first budget work session in a joint meeting with the Charlottesville School Board on Wednesday to discuss the school system budget. City Council will hold its own budget work session focused on budget development on Thursday.

Once the proposed budget is available, two additional work sessions will be held, one on March 10 and the other on St. Patrick’s Day. The budget will be presented to the community on March 23 and will hold two more work sessions. The budget must be approved by the council by April 15.

“Once the proposed budget is delivered to the City Council, in February, we need to decide on if there’s any proposed tax changes. We’re required to advertise that at least 30 days prior to any public hearing,” Hammill said.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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