March 8, 2006
Last week, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors was presented with the proposed budget for 2006-2007. Tonight, the public got their first chance to weigh in on this process.
Concerns and praises were the order of the night as people came from throughout the county to comment on the $259 million budget proposal. All of this was in an effort to sway the County Board of Supervisors, as the budget process moves forward.
Nearly 75 people gathered at Monticello High School to hear the County Executive's proposed $259.3 million budget. The proposal is an 11 percent increase, totaling $26.2 million more than last year.
"The majority of the increase in this year's budget goes to the school division, about 60 percent of it, and to public safety, close to 15 percent of it. Those are really the big drivers for the increase this year," said County Spokeswoman Lee Caitlin.
The current proposal fully funds the school system's request for an additional $16.5 million, a move that most in attendance favored.
"One of the most attractive aspects of the area to many of these newcomers...is the excellent quality of the public education system," said Janet Webster.
"We support the desire to be world class but we also recognize that this takes resources," said Hollymead Elementary School Principal Carole Hastings.
The proposal also sets aside $1 million for the ACE program, aimed at land conservation. However, some say that is not enough.
"I estimate that that million dollars that you started funding the program at in the year 2000, you would need about $1.8 to $2.1 million to preserve the same amount of land today," said Rex Linville from the Piedmont Environmental Council.
Caitlin says the County puts forth a great deal of effort putting together a budget because it's a blue print for the future.
"The budget is really more than just numbers. It is a really important road map for how the community is going to grow in the future," she said.
The Board of Supervisors will next have four work sessions in order to iron out the kinks. The public will next have a shot at the county budget on April 5th at another public comment session. The final vote is scheduled for April 12.
County officials say they welcome comment by the public online as well as by phone.