Joe Thomas "Blog-cast" Headline Animator

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"The Hand that rocks the cradle rules..."

I'm feeling a bit pent up because my radio show has been consumed with the emergency situations that have confronted my area in the form of snow these past few mornings.

One of the thing that I wish we had more time to get into is a quirky little battle between our local governments.

Here in Central Virginia the main city (Charlottesville) has this pact with it's surrounding county (Albemarle) called; "The Revenue Sharing Agreement." It's basically a municipal version of a protection racket agreement by which the City agreed to stop annexing County land (something they did quite a bit, especially if City taxpayers were moving their business to it...) and they'd both kick money into a revenue sharing fund. Of course, whichever municipality was doing better, revenue-wise, winds up cutting a check to the other based on the agreed-upon formula. (pg 3&4)

For the most part, since the City has had it's boundaries fixed and have a real strict height rule on development, their population is about the same as it was when the agreement was made (40k) while the County has boomed, it's the County that pays the City annually (this year it $19 million). The true irony of the agreement is, a year after the it was struck, the Virginia General Assembly made it illegal for a City to annex it's surrounding County land yet, since there was no language addressing this as a way to end the pact, (pg 8) the County continues to pay to keep the City from doing something it couldn't do anyway.

Now, since the Commonwealth says annexation cannot happen it does not recognize this agreement. So, when it allocates state education monies, they figure Albemarle's share based on their revenues with the money paid to Charlottesville still on their books and vice-versa. Annually, Albemarle's delegate to the General Assembly (Rob Bell) regularly asks for this to be fixed and it has yet to get that measure passed. However, every time he proposes such legislation it sets off a round of "us-versus-them" between the taxpayers in both communities.

Know this, I don't think that this a good bit of business and whoever wrote it was sly enough to make sure it stayed enforceable even if the chief concern was eliminated by law. That said, it is legal, binding, approved and signed by both sides AND approved by referendum. Just a long time ago. (1982)

Back then, the County was rural and the city was urban. Now, there's an "urban ring" in the County and they have all these municipal costs that they didn't have when the agreement was struck and they want out. Don't blame them for that. Don't blame the City, either, for saying no way to the idea of ending it. Would you end a contract that is almost entirely to your benefit? I think not. But, Joe, you say; if you don't like it how do we get rid of it? Well, this brings us to the little time I had to address this on-the-air and why it's put me into a corner with the former opponent to Delegate Bell for his G.A. Seat, Democrat Cynthia Neff.

I suggested last week that since it's school funding that's at issue, and we need to put something pretty big on the table to lure the City to the bargaining table, that we discuss merging the two municipal ("public option"?) school districts and then re-writing the agreement to have it need to be re-certified every four years to allow for changing circumstance. Then, while preparing to, once the snow was done (Thursday, 2/11/10), do a show about this with the Mayor of Charlottesville, an Albemarle Supervisor and two respected Government observers, I read Ms. Neff's editorial in the local paper on the 9th: "County wrong to act against the City" in which she proposes THE EXACT SAME THING.... "Times of crisis like the economic situation we’re all weathering call for leadership, not political pandering." She Writes, "Why not merge the two school boards with the combined city and county budgets and set a plan that meets all of our kids’ needs?" I guess she's a listener. She could have at least added; "Like I heard Joe Thomas say on 1260am and 94-1fm, WCHV the other day."

I know many people who will throw the idea out simply because she supports it. Heck, I nearly did. But I still think that it's a good idea because; A) It will purge one whole bureaucracy and cut costs immeasurably; and  B) It's the kind of offer that would have to be promoted in order to get Charlottesville to even entertain the idea of giving up such a one-sided deal.

I'll report in tomorrow on what the reaction is to my idea and post up the pod casts of the conversation.

One thing that I'd like to add is this; The most irritating thing about this controversy is, as a conservative I despise the concept of State and Federal funding for and vis-a-vis, control of, our schools. If the State and Federal Governments left our tax money in our community we could fund our own schools and then never would have had this problem in the first place. Also, if a similar one did come up, we could sort it out among the stake holders in our community instead of pleading with a bunch of elect-eds who couldn't care less about the problems of Charlottesville and Albemarle County's schools. Except, of course, for wanting to be the 'hand that rocks our cradle" so they can rule our roost.

"Thanks for all the fish!"

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