Monday, July 12, 2010

Another example of City-County Cooperation: Library costs

During the discussions about City/County collaboration and cooperation, some questions have been raised about the Regional Library System and whether the Funding Formula should be changed. As background, it is my understanding that Regional Library System, which includes Albemarle, Charlottesville, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson, receives funding from different sources and for different purposes. These include the following:

1. Federal monies, which are used primarily for telecommunications and internet services;

2. Fines and fees, which are designated for the purchase of equipment such as computers;

3. Monies received from the Friends of the Library Book Sale, which is housed primarily at the Gordon Avenue branch, and which generates monies designated for special programs;

4. State aid, which is designated for books and materials which would be purchased by the library; and

5. Funding from each individual jurisdiction through the Funding Formula.

Two areas are of special interest. First, the State funding. This is significant because the State provides additional money to regional systems over and above what individual jurisdictions would otherwise get. This is one tangible way that the State rewards “regional cooperation”. Consequently, if any individual jurisdiction decided to pull out of the Regional Library System, its individual allocation from the State would be less per capita than it effectively receives today. Here is one clear indication where cooperation gives us more bang for the buck. The other area of particular interest is the Funding Formula for the jurisdictions. The formula, which has been in place since 1991, asks each jurisdiction to contribute based on usage. Consequently, if an Albemarle resident uses the Downtown library, that use is factored into the formula. The same would be true if a Charlottesville resident uses the Northside library. Consequently, when you hear someone say that Albemarle is paying a certain percentage of costs for the Downtown Charlottesville library, that statistic is generated by the usage of the library by Albemarle residents. Beyond that, another important point to remember is that the Downtown Library building is owned jointly by the City and County.

It is interesting to compare the expenditures per capita of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library System to other places around the Commonwealth. The average cost for 91 public libraries in 2008 was $35.23 per capita. Our library is spending $31.10 per capita, which is less than independent libraries such as Orange, Waynesboro, and Staunton, and ranks near the bottom of the 24 libraries that were analyzed by the Library of Virginia. Only Madison, Amherst, Chesterfield and Fluvanna spent less per capita. Our staffing ratios are smaller than most other libraries in the state as well. In a 2007 study of similar sized libraries, none had lower staffing levels than ours.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Daily Progress article: City extends fire accord with county

Here is a link to today's Daily Progress coverage of the extension of the fire accord between Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Take a look. The extension of the agreement is a great example of City-County cooperation throughout difficult economic circumstances. Fire and safety services will be the focus of one of three workgroups to be held this summer.



Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Text of Statement before Joint City/County meeting April 24th

Again, I want to thank you all once again for being willing to participate in this meeting, and want to thank the public for their interest in either attending today or listening to the discussion on the internet (posted here). At a time when public opinion polls indicate that citizens are increasingly distrustful of government, it is important to have open and transparent discussions about how best we can move our community forward, and this meeting is a wonderful example of that.

You didn't need to be here today, and the fact that you have chosen to be here on a Saturday afternoon is testament to your commitment to this community and to the idea that we can do things better and provide a higher level of service to our constituents by working together.

Let me begin by stating the obvious--we do many good things together. To the extent that there are differences between the jurisdictions, they are legitimate and require acknowledgment that they are. We do not do enough of that.

I was to start by taking you back to 1981. This was a time when the population of Charlottesville was about 40,000 and the County was not much larger. It was also many years before the State imposed a moratorium on annexations by cities, and it was quite common for cities in the Commonwealth to periodically annex additional property so that they could improve and enhance their tax base in 1981. The City had not had a major annexation since the 1960s, and was then threatening to annex large portions of the County. There was some suggestion that the annexation might include most of Pantops and significant portions of Route 29, in what is now the commercial corridor, all the way to Fashion Square and perhaps beyond. To avoid the costs and division of an annexation fight, City and County leaders met and developed a unique approach to resolving this dispute. It came to be known as the Annexation and Revenue Sharing Agreement. The Agreement obligated the City to give up annexation--forever--in exchange for a sharing of revenue that would be gained from growth in the City and County. This was to be accomplished by a formula. From the beginning, everyone knew that, because the City was smaller in size and the County was more likely to grow, the revenue sharing formula would generate money that would be transferred from the County to the City. Because of concerns in the County that this revenue transfer would become too large, the City and the County placed a cap on how much could be transferred every year as a percentage of County tax revenue. The Agreement was then ratified by both City Council and the Board of Supervisors and, because of State law, it was submitted to County voters in a referendum. The referendum passed with more than 60% of the vote, and the Revenue Sharing Agreement has been in effect since that time.

The Agreement was not simply about money. There were clauses in the Agreement that required the City and the County to discuss cooperative ventures and the possibility of consolidation of various programs. While the revenue sharing piece has worked very well, the cooperation elements have not been as successful as the initial drafters had hoped.

That is not to say that there hasn't been substantial cooperation between the City and the County; there has. In fact, my colleagues in the legislatures are envious of all of the City/County cooperation and collaboration that occurs. Few communities in the Commonwealth have this level of cooperation, and ever though we have our squabbles, they, in no way, approximate the character or tone of arguments that are occurring in places like the Hampton Roads area or even Northern Virginia.

We can all cite countless examples of this cooperation, but you have heard them before. So, I wanted to give you two that maybe you haven't thought of, and are not thought of by the public, but are significant examples of how both the County and the City step up, and invest taxpayers dollars in their respective localities that end up benefiting the citizens in the other. Most recently the City invested $10M to build a new Aquatics Center at Buford School. This facility will be open to residents in both jurisdictions, and statistics show that County residents use City indoor pools in greater numbers than City residents. On the County side, people forget that the county invested several million dollars in a project located in the City--renovation of the Juvenile Courts building--which they did not need to do. That investment was critical to keeping the courts downtown at great benefit to the City and it should be acknowledged.

One might contemplate what this community would look like if the Annexation and Revenue Sharing Agreement had not been enacted. First, the City would have annexed large portions of land in the early 1980s. This probably would have meant that the City would be gaining much greater tax revenue than it does from the Revenue Sharing Agreement, but it would have also had the costs involved to maintain the infrastructure of that area and the school population derived from residential portions of the annexed property. At the same time, the County would have looked substantially different. In search of a broader commercial tax base, the County would likely have permitted the expansion of commercial areas and growth areas farther up Route 29 and more into the more rural areas of the County to the West, East and South. One can only speculate, but it is not out of the realm of possibility that the County would have looked very different than it does today. The compromise reached at the time left us with what most people believe is a legally binding agreement. But that is not to say that people in both jurisdictions like everything about the Annexation and Revenue Sharing Agreement. Some residents wonder if it was ever a good deal in the first place. After all, the City gave up annexation at a time when it still existed. At the same time, as the dollars transferred from the County to the City continue to rise, some County residents ask why it has to be this way. City residents have to understand how significant a concern this is. Many present County residents were not here when the Agreement was made. Cities can no longer annex county land, and even through the percentage of the County budget going to revenue sharing is about the same as it was in the 1980s, it is still a lot of money. There are legitimate arguments to make from each perspective. We are not likely to resolve those issues in this meeting, but we can address the general concerns that our constituents have that we should provide the highest level of service at the lowest possible costs. That is where collaboration and cooperation come in, and it is my hope that before the end of the day, we will have some pieces in place to address those concerns.

While the County Board and the City Council meet periodically to discuss common issues, it is rare for both Boards to meet together with the respective School Boards in the same room at the same time. In face, in my twenty years of public life, I can never remember it happening. But these joint discussions are more important today than ever before. The challenges of providing education in the increasingly competitive global economy are significant. We have two wonderful school divisions that pride themselves on high performance and efficient delivery of instruction. At the same time, however, both are being buffeted by the economic challenges of our time, and are experiencing the impact of fewer dollars flowing from Richmond. The demographics are different in each jurisdiction, but there are many commonalities given the proximity of each to the other. Both have challenges in bridging the achievement gap and ensuring that they can keep good teachers in the classroom and pay them a reasonable salary.

A key strength in our community rests in our educational system. We neglect it at our peril. For anyone to say that they cannot benefit by greater collaboration and cooperation does not understand our present challenges.

In conclusion, great communities don't just happen. They are the products of decisions, big and small, good and bad, made by people like us. The decisions we have made--and will continue to make--will shape this community in the months and years to come. We have good choices and people of good will to make them. I thank you again for embracing the possibilities that lie before us.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Agenda and Working Principles for Tomorrow

The parties involved in tomorrow's joint meeting have agreed to an agenda and working principles for the discussion. Please see below.


1. The general purposes of meeting include:

· Taking the next steps toward advancing the collaborative and cooperative goals of both jurisdictions.

· Identifying several issues to be explored over the next two years by the Boards and Council/Supervisors.

· Identifying a process for evaluating and deciding the degree to which the City and County can cooperate on these ventures.

· Bringing the 4 elected groups together at the same time in the same place.

· Producing some tangible movement toward further collaboration and cooperation.

· Facilitating an understanding of the respective problems of these two jurisdictions.

· Providing a framework for further discussions.

· Getting together to discuss common goals/ways we can work together for the benefit of our respective school divisions and community.

· Efforts to expand collaboration and cooperation shall be guided and evaluated by working guidelines and benchmarks agreed to by the governing bodies, and shall include how these efforts will either increase the level of services at the same cost to the jurisdictions or provide the same level of service at lower cost.

2. The meeting is open, but given the limited time, there will be no public input.

3. Limit surprises.

4. Focus on future.

5. Recognize that key to sustained collaboration are the relationships of participants.

6. A one or two hour meeting cannot hope to resolve all issues, but we can set a process in motion.


1. Call to Order – Each Board convenes
2. Introductions – Toscano – 15 minutes

  • The Context for City / County Collaboration.
  • Short History of Annexation and Revenue
  • Sharing Agreement
  • The Challenges of Education for the Global Economy

3. What We Do Well – County Perspective reported by Board Chair - 20 minutes

  • As A Community several Items (posted on wall)
  • City Perspective reported by Mayor – several Items
  • County Schools Perspective reported by Board
  • Chair – several Items
  • City Schools Perspective reported by Board
  • Chair – several Items

4. What We Can Do Together – City Schools – 1-3 Items (posted on wall) 15 minutes

  • County Schools – 1-3 Items
  • City Council – 1-3 Items
  • County Board – 1-3 Items

5. Getting to Yes – Identification of issues to work on and protocol 30 minutes for so doing; Possible short-term agreements

6. Adjourn Our strength as a community lies in unity

Monday, April 19, 2010

City-County Collaborative Meeting coming up!

This Saturday, members of the Charlottesville and Albemarle School Boards, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and the Charlottesville City Council will meet at the McIntire Room of the Downtown Library to discuss City-County cooperation and initiatives to bring the community together. It will begin at 1:30 p.m. and last approximately two hours.

The public is welcome to come and observe the proceedings, but given the number of items on the agenda and limited time, there will not be an opportunity for public comment at the meeting itself. I encourage you to share your thoughts and suggestions in the comment feed of this blog, by emailing me at, or by calling my office and your elected local representatives. I will also ensure there will be opportunities for input on this important subject at future public events.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Daily Progress Article: Revenue Sharing and Cooperation

Here is a link to a great editorial summary of the history of the Revenue Sharing agreement and some cooperative efforts between the City and the County over the years. Take a look.



Friday, March 19, 2010

Town Hall Time Change: 6:30 on March 25

Update: we have pushed back the time of the Town Hall next Thursday to 6:30. We hope this will allow more people to participate.

Legislative Town Hall
With Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegate David J. Toscano
6:30 p.m., March 25
The Senior Center
1180 Pepsi Place
Charlottesville, VA 22901

Many thanks,