Charlottesville Council Considers Agency Evaluation Metrics

By. Amelie Bailey, 2011 Field Officer Intern

Charlottesville City Council met on Tuesday, July 5, in place of their regular first Monday meeting to discuss transit funding as well as a new process of awarding funds to human services non-profits.

Charlottesville’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) calls to replace two diesel buses with hybrid buses in FY2012. However, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) awarded only enough funding for diesel replacements, not hybrid buses. In order to purchase two hybrid buses, Council would have to decide to supplement grant funds with $270,697 of local funds. A hybrid bus is projected to have fuel savings of 10,500 per year over a diesel bus, or around 25% better fuel efficiency. The maintenance costs of such buses are not estimated to be higher, but batteries will need to be replaced during the life of the bus, and costs of such replacement are currently unknown. Council voted 4:1 to supplement $270,697 to replace two diesels with hybrids for FY2012. Councilor Brown expressed concern for costs and battery life and voted against the motion.

Much of Tuesday’s discussion was devoted to analyzing a revision of the process by which non-profits will receive funding in the region. By recommendation of ABRT (Agency Budget Review Team), a Steering Committee has undergone a nine-month research period in order to reorganize how localities will give funding to human services non-profits. Staff presented the recommendations of the Steering Committee and suggested that City Council adopt 5 of the 6 recommendations by the Committee. These five recommendations include selected priority areas for funding, as well as a rating system to determine the amount of funding to be given. Staff did not recommend adoption of the recommendation to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment every four years, due to costs of such an assessment. The last needs assessment, from 2004, had a total cost of approximately 60,000.

The primary difference between the old rating system and the new proposal is the increase in the margin by which a non-profit’s funding can change year to year. In the past, an agency rated at “Fair” was defunded by 5% of the previous year’s sum, and agencies had to be voted as “Poor” twice before being completely defunded. In the new system, a rating of “Solid” or Exemplary” will earn an agency between 90% and 125%* percent of the funding of the previous year’s total. Agencies scoring “Fair” will be defunded by at least 25%, and agencies rated “Poor” will be defunded completely. The intent of the new rating system is to better reward those nonprofits performing at a high level.

Council voiced several concerns with the proposals. Several Councilors noted the benefit to having a needs assessment despite the high cost. Councilor Edwards stressed that beneficiaries of non-profit work should be included in discussion of the new process. Mayor Norris stated that he wished for some emphasis be placed upon encouraging non-profits to help beneficiaries become self-sufficient. Council members requested that staff address the input at a future date.

Staff brought forth a recommendation to adopt an ordinance for abatement of a blighted property located on Montrose Avenue. The property in question has been cited for violations of maintenance code since 1993, and extensive termite infestation was discovered in 2002. Alloy contractors discovered significant mold, mildew, and water damage in an inspection in late April. Though the house is currently used only for storage purposes, the integrity of the structure was deemed so compromised that contractors question the safety of removing the belongings within the house. Their professional opinion was that costs of repair would outweigh the value of the property itself. Staff proposed that the house be demolished, as the City Planning Commission recommended. In one of the more difficult decisions of the night, Council granted the owner, who was present, a 30-day window to acquire a contract to either sell or renovate the property. In the event that the owner does not have such a contract after this time period, Council will most likely recommend demolition.

*Council Book Memo and Presenter quoted different numbers for possible increase in funding to agencies scoring “Solid” or “Exemplary”. Staff said there would be a possibility of receiving 125% of previous funding, whereas council book states a possible 20% increase.

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Amelie Bailey is the 2011 Field Officer Intern for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum. To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

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