Charlottesville City Council Approves Spending and Budget Measures

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Charlottesville City Council (FILE image from 2016) Charlottesville City Council (FILE image from 2016)

Charlottesville City Council held a public hearing on a multi-million dollar proposed spending plan.

The public hearing was on both the budget and the proposed tax rate in Charlottesville.

City councilors have to mull over a proposal from Mayor Mike Signer earlier this month to drop the real estate tax rate by two cents. At a budget community forum last week, only four people showed up.

The $171.6 million budget adds several new positions including an IT support technician and a traffic safety officer. The plan also provides an additional $2 million to the city's school division.

All of this while some city business owners have seen commercial property assessments increase.

"if you look at mine, my land went from 746,000 to 1,586,600 in one year and I just can't see the justification of that amount for my business.  I can't charge but so much for my services," said Bob Archer, a business owner. 

"Homeowners and commercial real estate owners are paying more in taxes. More revenue equals more unwise and capricious council spending," said Colette Hall, a Charlottesville resident. 

The budget sets aside $800,000 for affordable housing initiatives, but the Trump administration's budget could put some portions of the city's budget in jeopardy.

"There often are things that people have, this is the time to bring them forward if they're going to be a budget item. If you have a strong opinion or just an opinion, this is a really good way to do it," said Kristin Szakos, a Charlottesville city councilor.

Another budget work session is set for March 30. Council will formally vote on the budget next month.

At Monday's meeting council signed off on changes to business license fees. That means changes are on the horizon for about 450 small businesses in th city. 

Business owners who make less than $100,000 are exempt from a rate-based tax and only have to pay a flat $50 fee. Changes would cut estimated tax revenue by at least $90,000. City staff says the change could lure businesses to the city over Albemarle County.

The city is also deciding what to do about its deer population. Council discussed a report with a recommendation to institute an urban archery program.

The city decided to set aside $50,000 for both bow and rifle hunting. Council passed the measure unanimously. Under the plan, councilors have to decide if police officers or professional hunters will be used to curb the deer population.

The city also sent a strong message to the White House Monday evening. 

Councilors voted in favor of a resolution asking President Donald Trump to fund human and environmental needs and not fund military expansion.

Council voted 4-0 with Mayor Mike Signer abstaining his vote. The city pays roughly $112 million in federal taxes for military expenditures, and some councilors say that money could be used to pay for teacher salaries, new energy jobs and solar panels.

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