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Council OKs allocation of most of $5.8 million budget surplus

Charlottesville’s City Council allocated the majority of its $5.8 million budget surplus to a variety of funds during its meeting Monday.

The council unanimously voted to back a revised staff recommendation on the surplus.

The allocation includes $700,000 for the Affordable Housing Fund. That amount will be combined with the roughly $670,000 returned to the city from Virginia Supportive Housing after The Crossings II recently was delayed for a year.

The council provided $50,000 to fund the startup of the Police Civilian Review Board. Ongoing operating costs will be allocated as part of the fiscal 2021 budget process.

The council also provided $1.8 million to the city retirement fund and transferred $1.01 million to the citywide reserve.

The largest chunk of the surplus, $2.28 million, is for the capital projects fund to cover a citywide salary study and add money to the rescue squad equipment fund. The salary study will cost $1.25 million.

Staff adjusted some of the recommendations after the council held a retreat to discuss the budget on Jan. 23. The council voted 4-1, with Councilor Lloyd Snook opposed, to support the amendments to the original recommendations.

The revised suggestion is for only $5.3 million to be spent, with $500,000 going to the Capital Improvement Program contingency fund, a reduction from the originally recommended $624,766.

The council also decided to allocate $300,000 to the Equity Fund and $130,000 to the Emergency Assistance Support Program, as well as reduce the planned allocation for radio replacements for emergency services from $614,000 to $308,766.

The proposed spending plan also contributes $96,000 to replace Charlottesville Police Department equipment; $46,494 for courthouse maintenance and construction; and $18,500 to cover marketing of Unity Days events and a U.S. Census project coordinated by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

The majority of the council’s discussion was about the allocation for the Emergency Assistance Support Program, which provides cash assistance and referral services for area residents with rent or mortgage payments, to avoid disconnection of utilities or with other one-time emergencies.

Mayor Nikuyah Walker said that requests through the account are much higher than the total available funding.

Snook argued that funding shouldn’t be allocated to ongoing expenses for an account that received about $84,000 in the current fiscal year.

In other business, the council approved its portion of funding for the Afton Express, a bus service that would connect the city to the Shenandoah Valley.

The bus would be run by BRITE, which currently services Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro.

Charlottesville stops would include the University of Virginia, UVa Medical Center, downtown and the Amtrak station on West Main Street if requested by a passenger. A passenger also could request to be dropped off at the Waynesboro BRITE hub.

Staunton, Charlottesville, UVa and Augusta and Albemarle counties have agreed to support the proposed bus route.

The financial commitment is a local match for a grant by the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission to the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

Operating costs are expected at $1.15 million over the next four fiscal years. The Charlottesville area would provide $104,529 over that timeframe, with $69,655 from UVa and $17,437 each from the city and county.

The council was also set to discuss a new form-based code for an area near downtown, but those discussions were still ongoing as of press time.


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