I write to report on City and County efforts to build greater collaboration. This recently took the form of a meeting of the Charlottesville City Council, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, and the respective School Boards on Saturday, April 24, 2010, at the downtown library. This was a very significant event because it is the first time in recent memory that all four bodies have met in the same room at the same time. The meeting was called during the General Assembly session in the aftermath of a proposed budget amendment which would have transferred $5.6 million over two years directly from the City Schools to the County Schools. This amendment found its way into the budget approved by the Virginia House of Delegates and would have meant a 35 percent cut in school funding for the City of Charlottesville. After considerable debate, the budget amendment was stripped from the final budget approved and signed by the Governor. The final budget approved by the General Assembly included more school funding for both the City and the County than the House budget would have provided.
The April 24th meeting was marked by attitudes of cooperation and collaboration. The participants emphasized their interest in taking “small steps” towards building a collaborative enterprise. Despite the rhetoric of “small steps,” we should not downplay the performance of our jurisdictions over the years. We have greater degrees of cooperation in this region than any place in the Commonwealth. While recent initiatives may not be a dramatic as some would desire and ultimately will occur, they nonetheless need to be viewed in a context of a history of strong cooperation.
The result of the meeting was the creation of several working groups to address several immediate issues:
- Revenue Sharing and the controversy involving the Local Composite Index;
- Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services;
- Social Services.
The expectation is that those groups can meet over the next several months to determine whether concrete proposals may be brought forward to be considered by the elected Boards of each jurisdiction.
The School Boards took a different tact. They agreed to produce what is being called a “Project Charter”, a document that would set forth certain goals for collaboration and identify specific areas where savings might occur. They are targeted to produce a draft of this document by early July with a more thorough discussion in early fall. The Darden School and Dr. Alec Horniman have agreed to assist the Schools in producing this document and engaging the collaborative discussion.
If you would like to view my statement to the Boards and City Council, you can go to “Community Voices: Charlottesville and Albemarle Together” to review and post your sentiments as you desire.
I hope that both jurisdictions will consider larger steps in the future. One might envision an arrangement whereby students from one school division could attend school in another as a way to break down some of the jurisdictional boundaries. The City and County might also consider the possibility that some portion of the Revenue Sharing money that is transferred to the City each year could be jointly programmed by the City and the County. In that way, the Revenue Sharing Agreement would be preserved, but some of the County’s interest in knowing exactly where the money was being spent for the benefit of both jurisdictions and having some voice in how the money is programmed would be addressed.
The four bodies agreed to meet again in the spring of 2011 to review their progress and consider next steps for mutual collaboration.
I am confident that given the skills and attitude of these bodies, significant progress will be made over the coming year to move the jurisdictions closer together.
On a more somber note, our prayers and thoughts go out to the family and friends of Yeardley Love, who was so tragically killed last week. Events like this shock our basic sensibilities and challenge us to reinforce our commitments to each other and to the special community that is the University and greater Charlottesville. I urge you to read President Casteen’s comments; they embody many of our thoughts and concerns at this challenging time.
It is an honor to represent this district.