How Do You Suggest Albemarle Pay for Infrastructure?

Pantops wants sidewalks. But apparently Albemarle doesn’t have money for much of anything right now. What are the solutions? Gas tax? Local tax district with guaranteed dedicated funding to infrastructure? We know that if we don’t specify up front how taxpayers’ money will be used, it will be frittered away elsewhere … would you be willing to pay a gas tax or sales tax that was specified for infrastructure projects in Charlottesville and Albemarle?

Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) raised the question of how to pay for such improvements in the Pantops area, such as crosswalks and bike lanes on Route 250.

“The only way we have to really pay for additional infrastructure is to raise taxes. If the community is not interested in that, and I haven’t heard anybody telling me that they want their taxes raised in Pantops, then I want to make sure they understand that this is just a wish list,” said Slutzky.

Slutzky told the advisory council that it would be helpful to the board if PCAC discussed potential methods to pay for the requested improvements.

“We’re in a mode where people say we’d like the infrastructure, end of sentence,” said Slutzky. He added that funding should also play an important part in planning discussions, which it often fails to do.

Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) clarified that PCAC was not creating wish lists for the county to finance, but was simply asking for fair treatment relative to other communities such as Crozet and Places29.

I think Mr. Slutzky’s answer is a cop-out, and this is where I differ from many of my Realtor bretheren: If we’re going to approve so much development, why aren’t infrastructure improvements decided or coordinated with said developments? When I tell my clients, in response to their queries about what CharlAlbemarle is going to do about traffic and infrastructure, I am half kidding when I say, “nobody knows; we’ll just have to figure that out later.”

For an example of one person’s experience trying to navigate Charlottesville on foot, read this letter to the editor in the Daily Progress.

FYI – Crozet’s infrastructure plans have seen delays as well. The above conversation is an example of my personal struggle with growth in Charlottesville and Albemarle:

I am faced anew with the struggle our region faces, and how to cope with the challenges of being a Realtor who makes my living marketing and selling houses – across the gamut of price ranges … and the challenge of balancing that clear self-interest with the charge we all have of ensuring a high quality of life for ourselves and those who follow. As a Realtor, I recognize that people move to the Charlottesville area not necessarily because their jobs are moving, but because we are a destination with a reputed high quality of life. How do we maintain that quality of life?

What do we want this area to look like for our children? Their children?


Related Reading:

Albemarle residents criticize proposal to raise tax rates

Supervisors updated on financial plan and tax rate assumptions

From the Daily Progress in January 2009:

A new report shows a massive hike in government spending in Albemarle County in the past two decades, with inflation-adjusted expenditures increasing 121 percent between 1990 and 2007.

Officials say that’s largely because the county has become more urbanized, has to foot the bill for state and federal mandates and is giving a huge chunk of its money to Charlottesville.

The county spent an average of $2,673 per resident in 2007. Per capita spending was $1,660 in 1990 — after adjusting for inflation — according to the report, which charted operational expenditures.

“One could argue that the manner in which they’re choosing to develop has an impact on their spending patterns,” said Neil Williamson, president of the Free Enterprise Forum, which created the report along with Decker Economics in Kinderhook, N.Y.

Though expenditures went up by more than 120 percent between 1990 and 2007, the population and school enrollment increased 37 percent and 26 percent, respectively, during the same period.

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3 Comments

  1. Paul Erb September 12, 2009 at 13:40

    Demand for government-funded infrastructure is a form of impulse shopping and/or leverage.

    I think people are taking a long time to adjust to the reality that we can’t spend more than we have. In this transition period, we see consumers, drivers, banks, car companies looking to OPM (other people’s money) to cover their gaps, so to speak. An adjustment will take years, and very different expectations about leverage ratios. Goldman has reported that its leverage ratio has gone from 1:24 to 1:12. How long will it be before that hotel on the Mall gets finished, I wonder? What was Lee Danielson’s operating model when he built the Ice House and the movie theater? Repeatable? Sustainable? Evidently not. Has the region’s household borrowing followed suit? I wonder.

    Prices won’t behave until we get there…which is going to be darned hard to do on foot, so there’s going to have to be some leveraging somewhere. This leverage might need to be social–i.e. human-capital leverage–first. Once we see some at-first innovative and private-enterprise changes in individuals’ behavior (like micro-commuter lots on the perimeter of downtown, with low-cost taxi service in and out), we can expect the approach to spending and revenue to follow suit. But until then, we can’t just ask the government to solve it for us and keep our fingers crossed.

    Reply
  2. Paul Erb September 12, 2009 at 13:40

    Demand for government-funded infrastructure is a form of impulse shopping and/or leverage.

    I think people are taking a long time to adjust to the reality that we can’t spend more than we have. In this transition period, we see consumers, drivers, banks, car companies looking to OPM (other people’s money) to cover their gaps, so to speak. An adjustment will take years, and very different expectations about leverage ratios. Goldman has reported that its leverage ratio has gone from 1:24 to 1:12. How long will it be before that hotel on the Mall gets finished, I wonder? What was Lee Danielson’s operating model when he built the Ice House and the movie theater? Repeatable? Sustainable? Evidently not. Has the region’s household borrowing followed suit? I wonder.

    Prices won’t behave until we get there…which is going to be darned hard to do on foot, so there’s going to have to be some leveraging somewhere. This leverage might need to be social–i.e. human-capital leverage–first. Once we see some at-first innovative and private-enterprise changes in individuals’ behavior (like, I don’t know, micro-commuter lots on the perimeter of downtown, with low-cost taxi service in and out), we can expect the approach to spending and revenue to follow suit. But until then, we can’t just ask the government to solve it for us and keep our fingers crossed.

    Reply
  3. Jim Duncan September 15, 2009 at 10:07

    It’s hard to find the new reality when the government keeps artificially “sustaining” the market with the $8k tax credit for homebuyers and the cash for clunkers and the various bailouts for banks deemed “too big to fail” …

    Once we see some at-first innovative and private-enterprise changes in individuals’ behavior (like, I don’t know, micro-commuter lots on the perimeter of downtown, with low-cost taxi service in and out)

    This sounds like a *great* idea.

    Reply

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