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The Daily Progress - Inyourbackyard

In Your Backyard | April 28, 2020

Hello and welcome to the most recent edition of In Your Backyard, a newsletter about Albemarle County government news! Thank you for subscribing.

For me, it’s been a strange month and a half working from home, but my cat, Leo, loves having me around most days!

Albemarle County has made changes to how it operates, such as having most employees work from home and closing its buildings to the public, except for some offices.  The Board of Supervisors and some commissions and authorities have been meeting virtually over livestream. 

Keep reading to learn about other changes in the county government, including a new proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

 Albemarle County’s fiscal 2021 budget could be smaller than the county’s current spending plan by almost $60 million

In Your Backyard | April 28, 2020

ANDREW SHURTLEFF/THE DAILY PROGRESSCounty Executive Jeff Richardson (left) presents his budget proposal for fiscal year 2021 to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors on Wednesday.

Albemarle County Executive Jeff Richardson proposed a new balanced budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 to the Board of Supervisors last week, which is about $59.7 million smaller than the current-year budget, and almost $54 million shy of the plan he proposed in February. The plan proposed by Richardson in February was 1.3% smaller than the current year’s budget. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, revenue  to support the county’s general fund is expected to decrease by $6.4 million, or 2.1%, compared with the current year’s budget, and down 7.2% from the prior fiscal year 2021 revenue projections.

A large portion of the decrease is in the capital budget, which could plunge by about $30.8 million from the February proposal through the recommended deferment of several projects, such as the construction of an addition at Crozet Elementary School.

Some of the proposed changes include:

  • Hiring freeze

  • No raises for staff

  • No funding for a plan to raise the county’s minimum wage to $15 an hour

  • A plan to lease space at Albemarle Square shopping center for the Department of Voter Registration and Elections to meet in-person early voting needs is now scrapped

  • Includes 10 positions to provide daytime staff at Crozet Volunteer Fire Department and Pantops Public Safety station.

The first budget work session is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday over livestream, and a public hearing is scheduled for May 6. A second work session is scheduled for May 11, if needed.

The board is scheduled to adopt a budget on May 14.

Is there something in the updated budget you think I should write about? Email me at awrabel@dailyprogress.com

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Pandemic exacerbates internet access problems for school children and those now trying to work from home

Albemarle County Public Schools has extended its school division WiFi signal strength at school parking lots and the Yancey School Community Center during the pandemic for use by the public.

“It’s fiber, so it’s a lot more robust of a connection than a hotspot can provide,” said Christine Diggs, the division’s chief technology officer. “It’s a lot better for handling video and audio and those kinds of bigger demand items that stretch out bandwidth on a hotspot.”

But despite the school division’s efforts, many in the community still say the pandemic has exacerbated internet access problems for school children and those now trying to work from home.

Renee Lundgren, a family support worker in the county’s social services department, said the division has been wonderful in trying to meet the needs of children, but it’s still very difficult to get everything done with limited or no internet access.

“This has been going on for so many years, and then COVID, it just really changed the landscape and really accents the difficulties and inequities in services for people,” she said.

Lundgren, who picks up meals at Yancey, said she has seen a number of families utilize the WiFi there.

“Moms are in the front seat trying to help the older kids with work,” she said. “I’ve seen families sitting up huddled in the doorway because it’s raining. A family, they were all covered up with blankets a few weeks ago, because it was so cold, she was sitting with three kids trying to get work accomplished.”

Other Albemarle news

  • The Board of Supervisors approved an agreement for a public-private partnership with the developer of a proposed project, Albemarle Business Campus, which is contingent upon a proposed rezoning for the project receiving approval from the board.

County news from March:

  • The Board of Supervisors passed an emergency ordinance to ensure continuity of government, which allows county authorities to meet virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, and approved an updated ordinance in April
  • The Planning Commission recommended approval of a development at the intersection of John Warner Parkway and Rio Road known as Parkway Place. 
  • The Board of Supervisors approved a contentious project at 999 Rio Road.
  • The Albemarle Architectural Review Board provided feedback and recommended approval of two areas of the 277-acre Brookhill development.
  • The Albemarle County Police Department is partnering with Ring, the doorbell-camera company, to get video from county residents who have the surveillance cameras.
  • Charlottesville Fashion Square mall likely will be transferred to its lender within the year.

What's in an acronym?

Local governments use a lot of acronyms and it can get confusing for residents who aren’t regularly involved in the government.

Broadband and internet access are becoming more of a need that a want, and Albemarle established the Albemarle County Broadband Authority, also known as ABBA, in 2017. 

The authority and internet service providers have been successful in getting funding for projects from the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative grant program

Utilizing county money, ABBA has partnered with the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative to expand CVEC’s fiber-optic network in Albemarle.

Future agendas:

  • The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has a budget work session at 10 a.m. Wednesday over livestream. 

  • The board will hold its regular meeting at 2 p.m. May 6 over livestream.  

  • A second budget work session is tentatively scheduled for 4 p.m. May 11.

  • The Albemarle Planning Commission is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. May 12 over livestream.

We've adjourned!

Have story ideas or questions? Let me know at awrabel@dailyprogress.com or (434) 978-7261.

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