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.
I’m glad someone has researched this and is actually attempting to bring it up as a talking point. When the original agreement was put in place, the city had a population of 39K and the county had a pop of around 55K. The tables have certainly turned and now the county is the one in the position of power, yet they refuse to acknowledge it.
Even if the intent is not to completely remove the revenue sharing agreement, I think the county should hold the threat of removal over the city’s heads in order to force cooperation on things they are notoriously difficult about, such as infrastructure projects.
In addition, if council knew that 10% of their budget might evaporate on any given yea, perhaps they would be inclined to actually listen to their constituents.
An alternative proposal would be to keep the sharing agreement in place but allow for 1-2 council members to be elected representing the county.
Some numbers to think about:
Revenue: 374 Million
Expenditure: 374 Million
City Revenue Sharing: 15 Million
Per Pupil Spending: 12,511
Charlottesville City 2016
City Revenue Sharing: 15M
% of Budget: 10%
Per Pupil spending: 15,574
Who has the upper hand now?
I agree with both of you but I pose this one question. Since when has the Albemarle BOS given a rat’s ass about the average citizen? They are are puppets controlled by wealthy elites in the county.
I am disappointed that the Albemarle GOP did not put up a full slate to go after this issues as well as others. Perhaps we need to organize a Write in Campaign TO GET SOME RESPONSIVE FOLKS INTO OFFICE.