Monthly Archives: October, 2016

Greene Discusses Schools Expansion

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Growing at over 7% a year, Greene County’s is in the top 10 Virginia localities for population growth.  More people translate into more children going to school.  Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh and the School Board have been working with the Charlottesville architectural firm of VMDO   to develop a prioritized plan to expand the Greene County schools to meet the demand – including a new elementary school.  Prior to the Supervisors meeting of Tuesday, October 25th the supervisors held a joint work session with the School Board.

VMDO’s Robert Moje and Bruce Powell have helped the school system refine the facilities study  and have prioritized the projects into Short Term, Mid Term and Long Term groups with the Short term/High Priority projects ranging from $16.7-$19.0 million comprised of…

H1A      High School Dining / Kitchen / Media Center

gcps-expansion

S1          Monroe Drive Reconfiguration

S2          William Monroe High School and Nathanial Greene Elem. Parking

S4          Ruckersville Elem. Parking / Circular

M1A     Middle School Dining / Kitchen / Media Center

In addition, Whitmarsh pointed out that there would also be some additional staffing required.

Supervisor Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) asked VMDO if there were cost efficiencies to do the high school and middle school projects at the same time since they both need some of the same projects.  Moje said that yes there are potential savings but the amount of funds available will decide if similar projects can be combined and the savings realized.

Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) brought up the issue of the reduction of debt payments that grow each year as a source of funding for some of the projects.  In FY 2017 there is a reduction of $230M, in FY 2018 the reduction increases to $333M, FY 2019 = $515M and by FY 2020 = $827M which is a cumulative total of $1,905M in four years.  After 10 years the cumulative reduction in debt service is $7,273M and it grows to over $18 million by the FY 2033.

$(000)  
Fiscal Year 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024
Per Year $230 $333 $515 $827 $843 $855 $867 $880
Cumulative $230 $563 $1,078 $1,905 $2,748 $3,603 $4,470 $5,350

 

$(000)
Fiscal Year 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031 2032
Per Year $933 $990 $1,002 $1,301 $1,764 $1,764 $1,765 $1,766
Cumulative $6,283 $7,273 $8,275 $9,576 $11,340 $13,104 $14,868 $16,634

 

$(000)
Fiscal Year 2033 2034 2035 2036 2037
Per Year $1,768 $1,766 $1,764 $1,764 $1,764
Cumulative $18,402 $20,167 $21,932 $23,696 $25,460

 

The discussion shifted to the timing of when the Short Term projects could be completed which Moje indicated it would take 9 months to design and approve and about 18 months to build which would be by September, 2019.

The question of timing relative to the next budget cycle was brought up by Whitmarsh and she explained that it is critical that the Short Term projects be included in the next budget cycle in order to keep the project moving forward.  Board of Supervisors Chair, Bill Martin, had concern about needing to know how much additional cost the project would add to the taxpayers of Greene County.  Moje suggested that Short Term projects design phase be started and the actual construction could be decided in early 2018.

Supervisor David Cox (Monroe) requested a complete detail of all of the debt service by year by project which was agreed to be provided to him this week.  Frydl clarified that the School Board doesn’t need the approval of the Supervisors to spend up to their approved budget.  Cox complimented the School Board in presenting the project to the Supervisors which is a change on how these types of projects have gone forward in the past.  Martin reconfirmed that he needs to be able to understand the impact of taxpayers to their tax rate in combination with the cost of other projects, primarily the water impoundment.  Frydl suggested that the School Board go forward with the project similar to the manner the Board of Supervisors is progressing with the water and sewer project.

The Free Enterprise Forum applauds the School Board and Whitmarsh for being being proactive with the Board of Supervisors regarding their projected capital needs.  We also recognize the Board of Supervisors must balance the capital needs of the entire county.  While schools are the largest portion of any localities operating budget, the Board of Supervisors must accumulate all reductions in Debt Service as a source of funding of all projects needed in the county.  This public list of “needs” is accumulated in the Capital Improvement Plan  which is a county wide list and prioritization of capital projects year by year so that the Board of Supervisors can prioritize all of the needs of the county vs. debt service reductions vs. tax increases.

In addition, the Free Enterprise Forum believes it is important that all calculations include the annual contribution of unspent operating expense being rolled into the capital projects fund (projected to be $1.3 million for the schools by the end of this school year).

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

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Albemarle is Losing Faith

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

leavingyourjobAs anticipated as the sun rising in the east, it is with absolutely no surprise that Albemarle County’s first Economic Development Director, Faith McClintic, will be leaving her position later this year.  In her short  18 month tenure, McClintic often found herself at odds with Planning Commissioners, some members of the public, this writer, and some elected officials.  In addition, she found herself without product as she said in August of this year:

“If a manufacturer calls interested in locating near a highway, we tell them, ‘We have nothing for you,’. Prospect businesses are looking to move within three to six months if they are not looking to build. We tell them, ‘We have no product ready to go today.’” – Faith McClintic, Albemarle County’s economic development director

In her first days she was greeted with the ill-fated Deschutes Brewery proposal, which started prior to her arrival.  The public debate was rancorous and at times mean spirited.  Despite the outcome, McClintic was respected for her professionalism in the line of fire.  One of Da Lessons from Deschutes foreshadowed her departure:

Albemarle Economic Development Director Faith McClintic is a sharp, smart, economic development professional with a daunting task ahead of her.  There has been relatively uniform approval of the job McClintic has done thus far (even from those opposing the CPA).  It will be interesting to see if McClintic is able to maintain her high level of performance in the face of Albemarle’s competitive disadvantages  or is recruited away to a more “business welcoming” locality. [emphasis added-NW]

One year ago (10/22/15) when we wrote of our concerns about the Planning Commission attempting to improperly influence staff, we thought the writing was on the wall for McClintic.

The Planning Commission does not want the unvarnished truth for it will call into question much of the planning assumptions they have been using to design their designated growth areas. They fail to see how their planning paradigm has pushed quality businesses (read JOBS) from Albemarle County.  No, they want to influence and shade, if not change, the professional reporting from Albemarle Economic Development staff.

One sure way to run off a professional is to treat them in an unprofessional manner. [emphasis added-NW]

Perhaps, that is the underlying goal.

Well after 18 months, a shorter duration than many Albemarle rezoning applications, Albemarle has now lost Faith

We wish her well as she moves forward with her career at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) in Richmond.

At this point we have to ask, — Now that we have lost Faith, where do we grow from here?

How does a community that seems to be philosophically schizophrenic about the definition (and need) for economic development compete for new and expanding business?

Even as Albemarle is considering innovative economic development investments, will the Economic Development director position survive?

If it does, how do you believe other economic development professionals will view this job posting?

As usual, we have more questions than answers.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

Neil Williamson is president of the Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded non-profit public policy organization focused on local governments in Central Virginia. For more information visit freeenterpriseforum.org.

Photo Credits: Quotesgram.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is The Jury Still Out on Albemarle Courts Relocation?

By. Neil Williamson, President

Tonight (10/24) the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will take “public input” regarding the albemarle-courthousepossible relocation of their courts system.  Of the five options on the table, all but one keeps the courts in the City of Charlottesville. While the Free Enterprise Forum would like to have a favored option, we do not believe the case has been made for any option — considering how far along the process is, we are astonished at the basic questions that remain unanswered.

To review here are the five options:

OPTION 1: DOWNTOWN/LEVY EXPANSION
OPTION 2: RELOCATE COUNTY & CITY GENERAL DISTRICT COURTS TO COUNTY OFFICE BUILDING MCINTIRE

OPTION 3: RELOCATE COUNTY GENERAL DISTRICT COURTS TO COUNTY OFFICE BUILDING MCINTIRE

OPTION 4: RELOCATE COUNTY GENERAL DISTRICT COURTS & CIRCUIT COURTS TO COUNTY OFFICE BUILDING MCINTIRE

OPTION 5: RELOCATE COUNTY GENERAL DISTRICT & CIRCUIT COURTS TO COUNTY SITE

As we examine the decision matrix provided by the county, we have many more questions than answers.

Here are our top ten inquiries:

  1. Has the city offered any economic incentives to support any of the City based options? (see last week’s blog post)
  2. Why does option 1 (stay downtown) cost $12,500,000 more than building in option 5?
  3. Why does it cost $18,000,000 to put the General District Court at the County office building when it appears that most of the infrastructure is already there?
  4. If you build a new county admin facility, where will it be located and, how much does it cost?  Where is that cost shown?
  5. Do options 2-5 factor in the lost property tax revenue for whatever parcel is acquired?
  6. The matrix seems to indicate that options 2-5 strongly support the County’s strategic redevelopment/urban place making priorities.   Doesn’t that really depend on where the County offices are built and how?  It could eat up a bunch of property in the urban area and create little long term value.
  7. Will option 5 allow a mix of uses on their site?  What of creating affordable housing over top of the new county offices?
  8. It seems that you are assuming any new construction by the County in the County has high economic development value.  Why?  What assumptions have been made to draw that conclusion?
  9. Is taking urban county property off the tax rolls good for economic development? Will the development area be expanded to replace this lost land?
  10. Why is the construction risk higher for option 1 than any of the other options?

The public input offered can only be as good as the information provided to them to base that input.  We forwarded these questions to Albemarle County early last week and they indicated they hoped to have answers in their presentation tonight. If that is the case, the public will have limited time to process the information before the public input session closes.

Regardless, these questions need answers before anyone should make a decision on the future location of the court.

The jury is not “still out” — the full argument has yet to be presented.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website http://www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Albemarle County

Is Charlottesville the $17.86 Million Court Jester?

By. Neil Williamson, President

Imagine you are a mayor or a City Manager, if a major employer and economic driver in your city was poised to leave, how would you respond?

Perhaps its just me, but I would likely fight like heck to keep them in the city.  It is much easier to retain a major employer than to attract one.

But what if the employer is actually an arm of a neighboring government, should that matter?

What if that neighboring government annually gives your city millions in revenue sharing dollars, does that enter into the equation?

As most readers know, Albemarle County is evaluating five options for the needed expansion of their courts system.  The Free Enterprise Forum is currently reviewing the cost analysis provided by Albemarle and will weigh in on Monday (10/24) prior to the public input meeting regarding our thoughts on the various options.

Only one, the most expensive, of the five options keeps the courts in their current position in Charlottesville’s Court Square.Image result for Court Jester

This summer, the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce issued a report: An Economic Assessment of the Current Unified Court Square.  The report found $34 million in salaries could be tied to the courts and the related legal enterprises.  Further the report highlighted $1.6 million in employee meals spending and another $3 million in “other court attendee spending” . Accepted at face value, the combined courts complex has in excess of $38 million dollars in economic impact.

According to the Chamber report:

    • 45.9% of all 2015 General District Court hearings are Albemarle cases
    • 43% of Juvenile and Domestic Relation cases are Albemarle cases
    • 73.9% of the Depositions are Albemarle cases.

Allow me a little cocktail napkin math – A conservative estimate of the impact of Albemarle pulling both courts out of Court Square would be 47% of the case load.  Cocktail napkin math (not a true arithmetic discipline) projects the annual economic impact of moving both courts to be up to $17.86 million dollars (47% of $38 million).

With almost $18 Million dollars on the table, one has to ask – Where is the City of Charlottesville?

Where is the economic development arm that has supported businesses relocating to the city in the past?

Considering the documents released by Albemarle yesterday indicate keeping the courts in court square is the most expensive option ($42.4 million), shouldn’t the city make any offers NOW before the Board of Supervisors hears from the public and chooses to literally “leave town”?

Perhaps Charlottesville is already having such discussions with Albemarle – if so, the public should know.

If Albemarle decides to bring $17.86 million of ‘County’ economic activity back to Albemarle, Charlottesville may end up looking as wise as the Court Jester this Halloween.

Stay tuned.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: dinardaily.net

Greene Supervisors Get VDOT Update

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Joel DeNunzio, Resident Engineer from the Charlottesville office of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  gave the Greene County Board of Supervisors their quarterly update on Tuesday, October 11, 2016 . The first section of his report covered Preliminary Engineering projects which included Route 607 improvements at the Route 29 intersection and the Route 29/Route 33 intersection improvements.

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US29/Route 33 Intersection

The Route 607 project was advertised in September and the contract is scheduled to be awarded in January with the work to be completed by September, 2017. The Rte. 29/33 is a longer project requiring $1.2 million in funding and will go for 6 years with construction to occur starting in 2020.

Under Construction Activities the current project is the replacement of the Conway River Bridge replacement which is underway. This will however stretch out until November of 2017 until it is completed.

Maintenance Activities included preparing for snow treatment which included an inspection of equipment just completed today. DeNunzio indicated that for several years now snow treatment equipment has not only been inspected in the fall but also in the spring and this has provided the equipment to be in better shape for the next winter snow removal season.

The next part of the VDOT presentation asked for comments from the public and Landon McPeak who is a resident of the Golden Hills neighborhood spoke and asked DeNunzio how to get the roads in his neighborhood into the Virginia system. DeNunzio indicated that for rural additions state funds are limited 5% of construction funds (which for Greene County are $30,000) which would provide only $1,500 for this project. He indicated that there may be other services which could be of help.

Several comments were made by the supervisors including compliments on the paving on Route 33 all the way to the park, the town of Stanardsville and Simms Road.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Greene County

Fluvanna Examines Energy Savings to Fund Infrastructure Improvements

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors are looking at energy savings through infrastructure improvements.

Fluvanna Supervisor Don Weaver

Supervisor Don Weaver

Don Weaver (Cunningham District) is on a committee along with deputy county administrator Eric Dahl to explore potential energy savings. It is a program the state has implemented to encourage localities to make infrastructure improvements to lower energy costs.

Recommendations include items such as changing light bulbs to LED and improving HVAC systems. Dahl told the Board the contractor guarantees energy savings are greater than cost to do the improvements, otherwise the contractor pays the difference.

Dahl received an update from the contractor just before the meeting that estimates infrastructure improvement costs at $7.7 million. The estimated yearly savings is $500,000.

Also at the October 5 meeting, the board accepted a ‘gifted deed’ from Fluvanna Rescue Squad for the Palmyra Rescue Squad station. The station will need improvements.

Supervisors paid $1 for J. Andrew Graff of Old Albemarle Surveying to survey the property. Graff essentially did the survey as a gift, unbeknownst to the county until the invoice came.

Supervisors unanimously voted a parcel in the Zion Crossroads area to be in violation of the garbage, refuse and waste ordinance. Staff showed pictures of garbage mounds at the property, located at 21708 James Madison Highway.
package2016-10-05
If the owner does not comply to remove the garbage, staff has the authority to clean the property. A tax lien will be placed on the property to recover the cost of trash removal.

Also at the meeting the supervisors upgraded the Clerk of the Board position to a pay band that moves the clerk to an exempt position. The Children Services Act position had a description change and pay band downgrade as the current employee is retiring.

Supervisors approved the FY17 pay band schematic. The biggest change is with exempt employees being moved to the new federal salary minimum of just over $47,000.

The consent agenda had eight open space contracts up for approval. Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) thanked the residents for filing the contracts. He noted ones that he viewed were in the wrong designation previously. No other supervisor commented other than Weaver wanting full names of the contracted residents in the motions.

The next supervisors meeting is Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. There is a 4 p.m. work session prior.


https://freeenterpriseforum.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/bryan-rothamel.jpg?w=151&h=151The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS®and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

Photo Credits: Fluvanna County 

Albemarle’s Persistently Procrastinating Proffer Policy Process

By. Neil Williamson, President

peanuts-lucy-charlie-brown-football-2One item on tomorrow’s (10/5) Albemarle County Board of Supervisors agenda caught my eye,  Residential Development Impact Work Group Charter. This group is being charged with a very specific task regarding the calculation of cash proffers in light of the new (7/1/16) state code.

The Residential Development Impact Work Group is formed by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to understand recent State Code amendments regarding proffers and to develop and analyze alternative means for determining and addressing the fiscal impact of residential development allowed either by-right or subsequent to a rezoning.

The Work Group will also provide a recommendation on how to proceed with addressing fiscal impacts of residential development.

Wait a minute, didn’t we just go through a laborious 18 month process similar to this with the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee?

That group provided a report to the Planning Commission who chose to pass it up to the Board of Supervisors who decided not discuss it because their process had taken so long that the state code was changing again.  This collective inaction led to this year’s Groundhog Day post.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so darn typical.  While Albemarle continues to ponder and process “an understanding of recent State Code amendments”, other localities have read the state code as a directive and taken action.  Such action may boost economic activity.

Markus Schmidt of The Richmond Times Dispatch reports on last week’s action in Chesterfield County:

In a move expected to boost revitalization in several areas of the county, the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday unanimously approved a policy that lowers a fee developers pay when building homes.

These so-called cash proffers are per-home fees imposed by the county to offset public infrastructure demands that additional families create when developments are built.

The new policy cuts the proffer amount, a maximum of $18,966 per dwelling unit — the highest in the region — roughly in half to a $9,400 maximum.

The board’s decision marks the first time the amount has been lowered since the county adopted its cash proffer policy in 1989.

Board Chairman Steve A. Elswick of the Matoaca District said the policy change will not affect the county’s tax rate.

“There will be no tax rate increase, and this policy will not allow for bad zoning to move forward,” he said.

Why is it that in Albemarle, a county often recognized for its expansive, veteran Community Development staff, state law can’t be followed?

This is far from the first time the Free Enterprise Forum has raised this issue.

Albemarle PC Chooses to Ignore State Law, Again

WarGames and Albemarle’s Proffer Paradox

Albemarle Planning Commission Tells Supervisors To Violate State Law

Albemarle’s Persistent Proffer Procrastination

Albemarle’s Mad Hatter Paradoxical Proffer Policy

lucyandcharliebrownandthefootballConsidering Albemarle’s well staffed legal department, I guess it is a given that they continue to find “legal” ways to ignore state code.  Absent a willing “aggrieved party” to test their tenuous position in court, I anticipate they will continue to hold meetings staff task forces and do nothing to encourage development in the development areas.

Why did I expect anything different?

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Charles Schultz