The city and the county have approved an agreement that could serve as a road map as the city pursues its goal of reversion to town status.
What will reversion mean to current city and county residents? What exactly is the process? How long could it take, and how much will it cost? We have compiled a number of documents to try to answer some of these questions.
What is the process from here?
Upon approval by both the City and County, the negotiated settlement agreement will be forwarded to the Virginia Commission on Local Government. The Commission will review the proposed reversion in accordance with State Law (15.2-2907). The Commission will meet with City and County representatives. The process will also include oral presentations and a public hearing. Once completed, the Commission’s report is submitted to a special three-judge court. This report is non-binding and advisory in nature.
Following completion of the Commission’s report, the City may petition the circuit court by ordinance for an order granting the town status. This ordinance must be published in accordance with requirements outlined in state code (15.2-4101 and 15.2-4201). The Virginia Supreme Court would then convene the special three-judge court.
If the court finds the criteria for reversion have been satisfied, an order will be entered granting town status. This order will specify the effective date of the transition. The process should take approximately 18 months.
What election district will Town residents vote in?
Upon reversion, County electoral districts will have to be re-drawn to include Town residents. At that time, voter cards will be issued advising of the new districts.
How was the amount of the County’s annual payment to the City determined?
The annual payment directed to the Town approximates the funding currently contributed to the City under the existing Revenue Sharing Agreement. In this way, it essentially maintains the status quo as to payments between the jurisdictions.
Can you explain the “incentive payment?”
Under State Code, counties that absorb cities that revert to towns receive additional state aid for education. This funding is based upon the lower ability to pay calculation of the town or county. As a result, the County should receive approximately $4,000,000 in additional aid. This funding is NOT GUARANTEED and must be approved by the General Assembly in their biennial budget(s).
The agreement calls for the County to pay to the Town $11,250,000 in exchange for the Library, Welcome Center and Bedford Elementary School. These payments will be made annually for fifteen (15) years. However, should the General Assembly not authorize-- or reduce-- the additional aid in a given year, the payment from the County to the Town would be reduced as well.
Does the County assume any of the City/town’s debt?
What will happen with schools?
Upon reverting to a Town, the City School Board will cease to exist. All school services will be provided by the Bedford County School Board. In the agreement, the County agrees to begin consideration of a new middle school facility. In the interim, the County will lease the existing Bedford Middle School. The lease payments increase significantly in the out years so as to encourage a speedy resolution of this matter.
Ownership of the Bedford Elementary School will transfer to the County upon the effective date of reversion.
Will the Town have a land use assessment and taxation ordinance?
Yes. The settlement requires that the Town enact a land use program that is applicable to areas within the Town as well as any area that is subsequently incorporated into the Town’s boundaries.
The agreement speaks to boundary adjustments. Can you summarize those?
The agreement allows for three (3) phases of boundary adjustments. In the first phase, the Town boundaries will be expanded upon reversion to incorporate areas; primarily those that currently lie within “revenue sharing areas.” More specifically this includes the area in the vicinity of Wal-Mart and Lowes on 460 East, and 460 West to the Rhinos.
The second phase of Town boundary growth will occur if/when a joint water and sewer authority is formed and rates are equalized for town and county residents and business/industry or after a period of 10 years—whichever comes first (equalized rates or 10 years). However, if no such joint authority is created within one year of reversion no such boundary changes can occur.
The third phase of Town boundary growth is contingent upon development that is sufficiently dense as to lend itself to having the “feel” of a Town development and must be contiguous to existing Town boundaries.
Why are boundary adjustments part of the settlement?
Virginia State law currently prohibits Cities from annexing land in surrounding counties. No such prohibition exists for Towns. By incorporating certain boundary adjustments into the settlement, the Town and County ensure sufficient capacity for growth and thus a sustainable and economically viable Town. In the absence of the proposed boundary adjustments and negotiated prohibition on Town annexation, future Town growth cannot be properly planned in such a way as to mitigate any negative outcomes for the County.
Won’t this amount to double taxation?
Upon reversion, all Town residents will be County citizens. All county properties will be taxed at the same rate (currently $0.50/$100 for real estate). This revenue will be applied toward the provision of county services. Any tax levied by the Town would be applied toward urban services and programs that the Town seeks to offer “over and above” those available to County residents.
Will my taxes go up after reversion?
Upon reversion, the approximately 7,000 individuals residing in the Town will be County residents. Properties located in the Town will be taxed at the prevailing County rate(s). In addition, properties located within the Town will also be taxed by the Town Council.
Both the City/Town and County are deeply invested in mitigating any tax impacts to our residents.
Why don’t the citizens get to vote on this?
Under State Code the City has initiated this reversion process. This is different from a citizen-initiated transition. While the question will not go forward as a referendum, citizens will be afforded the opportunity to share comment with the Commission on Local Government and the appointed three judge panel prior to formal authorization of the reversion agreement.
Why is the City reverting?
Under State Code, cities with populations under 50,000 may initiate a reversion. The specific rationale for doing so may differ. The City’s expressed intent of reversion is to better facilitate sound economic development in and around the city/town in a way that enhances the County and city/town.