by Phillip Fassieux
Albemarle County residents are being hoodwinked by County elected officials into believing that the Albemarle Revenue Sharing Agreement is both necessary and interminable. It is not. This great charade helps to justify the need for last year’s $35 Million Bond Measure, property tax rate increases, a $15.8 Million payment to the City, and the need to close schools like Yancey Elementary in Esmont because of loss of funding and budget constraints.
All of these things could be avoided if County Officials fought for the interests of its residents. I call this a, “we don’t want to win” mentality. Its the mealy mouthed way to navigate life- never taking a risk and never standing up for those you serve. Its placing the easy “wrong” over the hard “right.”
The Board of Supervisors refuses to even attempt to seek relief from the agreement in Court, despite both documented evidence the original 1982 contract was signed under duress by County officials and that the 1987 moratorium on the agreement has made the purpose of the contract unenforceable.
According to an email I received from one Supervisor, “Our County Attorney has been clear that we have no legal ability to change the status quo.” This is defeatism of the highest order.
In a letter dated March 3rd, 2017 from County Attorney Greg Kamptner to the Board of Supervisors, Kamptner states, “The Agreement means that the County will never face an annexation by the City, and the economic chaos that annexation brings to the County’s tax base and its residents.” And, “The current moratorium, in place since January 1, 1987, could be lifted by the General Assembly in any year.”
This statement is both disingenuous and misguiding. The moratorium is as vulnerable to change as any other state law and subject to the same legislative process to change it. He fails to mention that not only have extensions to the moratorium been approved every year it has come up for vote in the General Assembly, but that its current extension runs until 2024. Additionally, he leaves out critical mitigating facts to County Officials which would undermine his claim that we need the agreement to fend off future annexation threats. The reality is that under Virginia law, counties can apply for, and receive immunity from annexation if they meet certain population requirements:
VAC § 15.2-3302 states that for a county to qualify for total immunity from annexations, it must have a population of at least a 50,000 persons and density of at least 140 persons per square mile. According to the Weldon Cooper Center at UVA (a demographics source specifically approved for use by VAC § 15.2-3302) the Albemarle population as of July 1st, 2016 was 105,715. Requirement one: met.
According to the US Census Bureau, Albemarle County has 726 square miles, equaling a population density of 145.6 persons per square mile. Requirement two: met.
What this all means is that even if 1) the moratorium on annexations were lifted and 2) the City initiated an annexation suit against the County, the County can still be protected from annexation by Virginia law.
Additionally VAC § 15.2-3305 states that once immunity is granted, it remains indefinitely.
County Officials need to brush up on current law and remind themselves of who they serve. It is time to end the Revenue Sharing Agreement in order to preserve our schools and our financial independence. I encourage all readers to contact their County Supervisor to tell them to start placing the needs of Albemarle County residents first. The board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.