Charlottesville City Council is currently advertising and seriously considering increasing the real estate tax rate 10 cents for the primary purpose of funding school reconfiguration at Buford Middle School and Walker Upper Elementary School. These two projects will cost taxpayers at a minimum between $75-$100 million dollars. Yes, $75,000,000 – $100,000,000 in taxpayer dollars for two schools.
I am all for closing the educational gap that widened even more during the COVID pandemic. However, if closing the educational gap with school reconfiguration means gentrifying families on the financial margin outside of the City of Charlottesville, then won’t school reconfiguration eventually just benefit wealthy families who have the financial firepower to withstand regressive tax tactics?? Before answering this question, please consider the following:
1. Real estate assessments increased 11.69% on average across the City of Charlottesville, including more than 20% in historically black neighborhoods like 10th & Page and Orangedale.
2. Inflation is currently trending around 7%. That means groceries and household items are now more expensive than ever before.
3. The Ukraine vs. Russia War is undoubtedly going to raise gasoline prices. Gasoline at $4 per gallon might be a reality this year.
4. Interest rates on 15- and 30-year fixed mortgages are rising, which will certainly price out home buyers from the City of Charlottesville real estate market.
So, what’s a possible solution?
Instead of considering yet another regressive tactic like a 10-cent real estate tax rate increase that will gentrify low-income families outside of city limits, Charlottesville City Council should brainstorm incremental tax revenue sources to fund the $75-$100 million school reconfiguration project.
For an incremental revenue strategy, please consider The Downtown Mall Biergarten strategy, which I’ve outlined below with possible revenue projections:
When converting The Downtown Mall into an outdoor biergarten, the City of Charlottesville should set up a “check-in” point at the heart of The Mall (Central Place across from Ivan Rekosh’s Zocalo Restaurant). At this “check-in” point, the City will sell a wristband and a to-go cup for $5 total. This “check-in” point will be staffed by employees making at least $15 per hour. This “check-in” point would serve as a point-of-sale.
We, as consumers, will pay the City of Charlottesville $5 for a wristband and cup. With the wristband on and a cup in-hand, we will head to local restaurants on The Mall and purchase local craft cocktails, local wine, local cider and local beer. Our favorite restaurants will pour these local spirits into the to-go cup. We will then walk up and down The Mall from the Ting Pavilion to the CODE Building with this to-go cup in our hand while supporting our beloved restaurants, music venues and retail outlets.
This strategy will yield the following:
1. This strategy will encourage Charlottesvillians & Central Virginians to return to The Downtown Mall to eat, drink, shop, laugh and love.
2. This strategy will jumpstart our local Downtown economy.
3. This strategy will slowly help return the hundreds of jobs we lost in Downtown CVille because of COVID-19.
4. This strategy will help locally-owned restaurants climb out of what appears to be insurmountable debt.
5. This strategy will trickle over and positively impact the locally-owned shops, music venues, hotels, transportation services, wineries, vineyards, breweries and other businesses around the City of Charlottesville.
6. This strategy will help create incremental tax revenue for the City of Charlottesville. The $5 per wristband/cup generates upfront revenue. This is Day 1 revenue from an incremental revenue source. I have outlined the potential revenue totals below.
7. This strategy will generate backend incremental tax revenue through the meals tax, transient occupancy tax and retail tax. If the City of Charlottesville implements this strategy, the big-time revenue potential is the backend incremental tax revenue.
8. This strategy will create incremental tax revenue that can be allocated directly to Buford Middle School and Walker Upper Elementary School reconfiguration.
Please find potential revenue projects below. These are conservative projections.
10,000 locals, tourists and students per week X $5 per wristband/cup = $50,000 in gross incremental revenue per week.
$50,000 per week X 47 weeks (take 5 weeks off due to weather, etc) = $2,350,000 in incremental gross revenue for the City of Charlottesville per year.
Also, please consider the backend incremental tax revenue generated through the meals tax, transient occupancy tax and retail tax. This is the incremental tax revenue source with the most potential to fund school reconfiguration.
Mayor Lloyd Snook, Councilors Sena Floyd, Michael Payne, Brian Pinkston and Juandiego Wade, please consider this strategy as soon as possible. Please convert the entire Downtown Mall into an outdoor biergarten to help fund costly school reconfiguration and to prevent significant gentrification from occurring with a 10 cent real estate tax rate increase.
Thank you, kindly. ~ I Love CVille