April 8, 2014
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to adopt a budget and set a tax rate next week, but not before hearing from the public one last time.
After months of tweaking, number crunching and 18 town hall meetings, more than two dozen people signed up to speak at a set of public hearings on the budget and tax rate on Tuesday evening.
The advertised tax rate is 80.8 cents per $100 of assessed value. That's up more than 4 cents from the current rate.
Residents had mixed feelings about the potential hike.
"How are we helping our neighbors when we're increasing the taxes and making it more expensive for them?" asked resident Mike Basile.
Randy Salzman, however, encouraged the board to go through with it.
"I have no issue with your tax increase. I actually applaud it," he said. "We should have done this a while back."
The proposed budget is $353,396,018. It includes a 2 percent pay raise for county employees, five new police officers, more than $40,000 for public defenders and about $50,000 for public transportation expansion, among other things.
The biggest chunk of the money is slated to go to the schools. The school board has requested about $164 million. The proposed budget would cover all but $2.5 million of that.
Still, several people told supervisors they'd like to see the request fully funded because cuts and larger class sizes loom.
"I don't know if you've been in a classroom at any grade level at any school recently, but most of them are too big already," said student Christiana Linebrink.
"I, too, as a parent of two children at Stony Point and as the PTO president am asking you to fully fund the budget," said Lisa Coldren.
Others are skeptical of giving the school system what it's asking for at the expense of the residents.
"We have yet to see a study where more money to a school system improves education," Carole Thorpe told supervisors. "I ask you to please consider the taxpayers of Albemarle County. People are working hard to put food on the table to pay for their homes, doing the best that they can. They need some relief."
Supervisors will have a final work session on Wednesday.
They are scheduled to adopt a budget and tax rate Tuesday, April 15.