By. Neil Williamson
If you had to pay your neighbor 5% of your income to keep him from illegally hitting you with a fish, would you do it?
Welcome to the Albemarle County/City of Charlottesville Revenue Sharing Agreement. The agreement calculates the amount of money Albemarle County gives the City of Charlottesville in exchange for the City of Charlottesville for not annexing parts of Albemarle. Shortly after the agreement was signed, a moratorium on city annexation was enacted by the General Assembly.
So much has changed since 1982, The Free Enterprise Forum believes, at a minimum, the fundamentals of the revenue sharing agreement should be examined.
First, the name of the agreement is a misnomer, revenue sharing sounds like both parties are sharing. This is not the case.
According to Albemarle County $115,931,909 have been “shared” with the city from 1982-2007. I have found no evidence of significant dollars being “shared” back to Albemarle County.
Ignoring for a moment that the City no longer retains the ability to annex land in Albemarle County, significant fairness problems exist regarding the equation determing the amount “shared” with the City.
The equation used to develop the annual payment is based on the tax on the assessed value of the land. With the rural areas making up 95% of Albemarle County and some 65% of those lands in land use taxation, Albemarle County actually pays more to the City of Charlottesville in “revenue sharing” than it collects in taxes from these parcels. I have been told this was an issue in the early 1980s as the agreement was being drafted but negotiators could not get the city to accept any thing less than full assessed valuation.
Considering the City of Charlottesville’s stated environmental goals, and recognizing the importance of Albemarle County’s rural areas to our region’s ecological condition, would the city reconsider the land-use tax calculation?
If the answer is no, it seems they are putting Albemarle County into a position where they may have to do away with land use taxation (they are not required to offer it). If this occurs, I have been told many landowners will sell their land — likely to be converted for large lot development. While the large lots may generate more tax revenue, the ecological contributions of these residences will likely be less than their current state.
What is unclear at this point is Charlottesville’s willingness, in these challenging economic times, to revisit a 27 year old agreement when today they get all the revenue and do none of the sharing.
I know which way I am betting.