After surprising a number of local officials who weren’t expecting him to take such bold action, Del. R Steven Landes has withdrawn a budget amendment that would have ended a revenue-sharing agreement between Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
In a news release Friday morning, Landes, R-Weyers Cave, said he will no longer propose the budget amendment.
“This amendment was intended to address the revenue-sharing agreement between Albemarle County and the city of Charlottesville. Unfortunately, the language as drawn proved to be too broad, so I have decided to withdraw the amendment,” Landes said in the release. “I will be looking for other opportunities to address this matter in the future.”
In 1982, the county agreed to a revenue-sharing agreement with the city. In return, the city agreed to stop annexing county land. About five years later, the state placed a moratorium on annexation.
This year, the county is contributing $15.8 million to the city’s budget. Over the course of 35 years, the county has given the city about $280 million.
Landes said his amendment was meant to address an “inequity” that the agreement has created and that it would have declared it “null and void since annexation is no longer an option for localities.”
In an interview Friday, Landes said the county did not request that he take action on the matter ahead of the current General Assembly session. Instead, he said, it’s been an issue that his constituents bring up each year. He said those repeated concerns motivated him to act.
“I think we should look for ways to rectify this situation. In my estimation, it’s unfair to the county,” said Landes, who represents parts of western Albemarle. “I don’t know about the board members, but I felt if there was a way for me to change it, I wanted to try to do that this session.”
Some city officials argue that if the agreement had not been adopted, the city could have added more property in the years before the moratorium was enacted, adding to its tax base.
Landes challenged that assertion.
“You can make that argument, but the fact is we’ve extended the moratorium into the future and the city cannot annex land. The county agreed to that when the law was such that there could have been annexation. The county is now on the hook for something they don’t benefit from,” he said.
Landes said some other legislators expressed concern about the budget amendment, worrying that it could spell an end for voluntary settlements between other communities, as well.
Landes acknowledged those concerns Friday, saying he also believed the language inserted in his amendment was too broad.
Although they did not request the legislation, county officials recently made statements that said they would explore what impact it could have on the annual county budget if the amendment had passed.
In an interview with CBS19, Rick Randolph, the Scottsville District representative on the Board of Supervisors, said some county residents were concerned that an abrupt end to the agreement could be construed as a downturn in city-county relations.
“It was like somebody tried to toss a hand grenade between the Democrat-majority City Council and the Democrat-majority county supervisors just to see what would happen,” he said.
Relations between the city and county have been strained recently over some matters.
Though the two municipalities are closely intertwined and coordinate many services, there has been drama over a county proposal to move its court facilities out of the city. Adding to the tension, the Board of Supervisors recently directed staff to study how it could create its own transit system.
“My view is that I’m really hopeful the city and county can use this situation as a springboard to talk more about shared services and cooperation,” said Diantha McKeel, county board chairwoman.
Randolph said he would prefer to try renegotiating the terms of the agreement, which is set to continue in perpetuity.
Landes, however, said he’s not so sure the city would be willing to do so.
“It would be nice if the city did that voluntarily, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen,” he said.
Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer declined to comment on the matter.