Charlottesville City Council (2020-2021)

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The Charlottesville City Council (2020-2021) is the current governing body of the City of Charlottesville. The Council is composed of five members, each elected at-large by voters under a council-manager form of government. The president of City Council (called mayor) is elected by the five members of Council at the beginning of each two-year Council term and serves until the next bi-annual organizational meeting of the City Council.

FY2021 Budget (Fiscal Year 2020-2021)

  • March 2, 2020: Originally council proposed a total general fund expenditures of $196,620,521. This is a 4.11% increase from fiscal year 2020. [1]
The proposed budget for FY21 had revenues for sales, meals and lodging taxes set at $31,950,505. This was an increase of $970,752 from the adopted FY20 ($30,979,753) budget.
  • May 18, 2020: the revised budget was $191 million [2]
  • June 1, 2020: A second reading of the budget was on the council agenda.
During the preliminary stages of developing the original proposed budget for FY2021, revenues were projected to be $195,211,887 with $202,730,862 in estimated expenditures [3]
  • June 30, 2020: Councilors were expected to adopt a final budget by this date.
Projected revenues and expenditures that were presented in the originally proposed budget for FY21 were reduced as a result of COVID-19. These reductions resulted in revenue projections falling from $196,620,521 to $191,195,873.
The revised budget for FY21 reflects a loss in sales, meals and lodging tax revenue of $2,320,960.

City’s Strategic Plan

Over the next year (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021), Council will be reviewing the plan and making revisions and updates for future goals and budget alignment. Below are some highlights of expenditures included in the adopted FY2021 Budget budget that fall under the priorities of the Strategic Plan.

City Schools

  • $1.34M in new operational funding as well as a $3.4M investment in their capital program.

City Council Initiatives

Compensation and Benefits

  • Maintains level funding for employee compensation and benefits.
  • Fully funds the City’s Actuarial Retirement Contribution for the Retirement Fund, at a cost of $10.5 million in the General Fund.

2019 election

Elections for the Charlottesville City Council (2020-2021) took place in 2019. Three of the five seats on the Council were open. The Democratic primary was held on June 11, 2019, and the general election was on November 5. The filing deadline for candidates was March 28, 2019.

Council’s configuration & power

Since 1928, the council has been composed of five councilor members, one of whom serves as mayor. Each member is elected at-large, by voters to four-year, staggered terms. Following the 2019 election, held on November 5, 2019, three new members, Lloyd Snook, Sena Magill and Michael Payne, each took their oath of office on December 19, 2019, allowing them to assumed full duties immediately on January 1, 2020 and thereby filling the seats being vacated by Mike Signer, Wes Bellamy and Kathy Galvin who each declined to seek re-election.

Organizational meeting

Mayor Nikuyah Walker was selected for a second term as the Charlottesville’s ceremonial leader at the bi-annual organizational meeting of the City Council on January 6, 2020. Walker was appointed mayor on a 3-2 vote in the new City Council’s first action of the new council term. Walker and Councilors Michael Payne and Sena Magill voted in favor of her appointment. Councilors Heather Hill and Lloyd Snook voted against it. Walker was appointed mayor on a 4-1 vote in January 2018 in the fallout of the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally[4]

Council president (mayor)

Charlottesville is a city manager-weak mayor form of local government, the positions of mayor and vice mayor largely are ceremonial. The President of City Council (called mayor) is elected by the five members of Council at the beginning of each two-year Council term and serves until the next election. Nikuyah Walker, an independent, won a second term as president of the council (mayor). Councilor Sena Magill (D) was selected as vice mayor. Walker is the first mayor to serve more than one term since Satyendra Huja stepped down in 2015. Former Councilor Mike Signer served only one term.[5] Prior to the 1990's, the custom of the Council was of selecting as president of the Council, or mayor, the senior council member who had not already held the position.

Charter Amendments (2020)

HB 1107 Charlottesville, City of; amending charter, city organization. The following amendments to the 1946 Charter were introduced by Delegate Sally L. Hudson (D) - House District 57 and approved by the General Assembly on April 7, 2020. Amendments went into effect on July 1, 2020:


By Ordinance, Councilors made $18,000 a year and the mayor made $20,000 a year; the maximum range allowed under state guidelines.[6] The 2020 Charter amendment brought the city code in alignment with ordinances passed by the Charlottesville City Council (2004-2006).

Prior to the 2020 amendment, the Charter set an annual salary not to exceed thirty-six hundred dollars ($3,600.00) for each council member; except the mayor was to receive a salary not to exceed forty-eight hundred dollars ($4,800.00).
December 3, 2018 - On a motion by Wes Bellamy, seconded by Kathy Galvin, the Charlottesville City Council (2018-2019) voted 3-2 to allow the city to operate outside of state guidelines for mayor and councilor pay. Delegates Toscano and Bell opposed city charter changes, dooming salary proposal for the 2019 General Assembly session.[7]
Context: The annual salary for Virginia senators is $18,000.[8] The annual salary for Virginia delegates is $17,640.[9]The current Albemarle County Board of Supervisors annual salary is $14,542. The chair receives a yearly stipend of $1,800. The vice chair receives $35 for every meeting he or she chairs.[10]


In 2007, the Charlottesville Board of Elections switched council and local elections from May to November without conducting a referendum on the question.[11] The 2020 Charter amendment is a text change to match current city election dates as set by ordinance of the Charlottesville Cit Council (2004-2006.

Council powers

Election of City manager

In lieu of the of the whole city council (five members), the city manager is to be appointed by a majority vote of the city council. (§ 5.d)


Council's power To restrain and punish drunkards, vagrants, mendicants and street beggars. (Repealed, text is simply deleted from the Code)

Historical Context: The Vagrancy Act of 1866 remained on Virginia's books in some form until 1904, when a new law – An Act in Relation to Vagrancy – was passed. It made vagrancy a misdemeanor punishable by a bond payment and good conduct for one year.

Budget Fiscal year; budget; levy of taxes

The city's fiscal year shall begin on July 1 of every year and conclude on June 30 of the following year. (Added)


The 2020 Charter amendment brought the city code in alignment with ordinances passed by the Charlottesville City Council (2004-2006). The current (January 2020) maximum pay in Charlottesville is $18,000 for councilors and $20,000 for the mayor. Charlottesville has one of the highest average salaries for council members in Virginia. State code sets salary limits for members of city councils based on population, ranging from $11,000 to $30,000. laws of the Commonwealth. Elected city school boards are governed by the same guidelines.

Issues in the city

  • Sena Magill, as a candidate in October 2019, she outlined four of the most important issues for Charlottesville:
  1. Affordable housing
  2. Transportation;
  3. Climate change;
  4. Racial equity.
To tackle these issues, she hopes to focus on the City’s zoning code, making the incumbent council’s climate goals a reality, improving the current transit system, and recognizing and addressing unconscious racial biases through initiatives like the Police Civilian Review Board.[12]
  • Michael Payne - as a candidate in October 2019 - “Top priorities for me are:
  1. Affordable housing — which intersects with so many other issues in the City;
  2. Local action on climate change;
  3. The growing economic inequality and the racial wealth gap and racial disparities in the City.”
To address escalating rents within City limits, Payne plans to spur reinvestment in and redevelopment of public housing, update the zoning code — which hasn’t been changed since 2003 — and complete the City’s affordable housing strategy. Like Magill, he sees an improved transit system as critical to mitigating climate change, alongside fossil fuel divestment and clean energy.[13]
  • Lloyd Snook as candidate in the 2019 election, noted some of the issues he considers to be most pressing include affordable housing, the achievement gap in City schools and local action on climate change.
To address the achievement gap in City schools, he advocates for increased funding to the City of Promise and Boys and Girls Club programs. With relation to action on climate change, Snook focused on divesting from fossil fuels, making changes to the transportation system and utilizing more solar panels, even in historic areas. To address affordable housing, he plans to support improved transportation, changed zoning, redevelopment of current housing and more streamlined City regulations on auxiliary dwelling units — extra units such as a basement apartment or separate small house situated on low-density property.[14]

City Officers

Council's most significant role is to enact laws, to adopt the city's operating budget and to hire the City Manager to run most city operations. Council is in charge of policy oversight and also hires the Chief of Staff/Clerk of Council, Director of Finance and the Real Estate Assessor. Council has an advisory role in appointing the City Attorney [15]and the Chief of Police. Council also has the authority to decide who sits on various city boards and commissions. As a result, City Council has significant influence in shaping city policies and programs. Among the officers and clerks who have served at the pleasure of the Charlottesville City Council (2020-2021):

City Manager

The City Manager, appointed by the City Council, acts as the City’s Chief Executive Officer. The City Council delegates broad administrative power to the City Manager subject to its review. Qualifications, powers and duties of the City Manager are provided for in the City Charter.

Chief of Staff/Clerk of Council

Formerly referred to as the City Council Clerk, the position was expanded by the Charlottesville City Council (2018-2019) under the title of Chief of Staff / Clerk of Council[17].

City Finance Director

The Chief Operating Officer/Chief Financial Officer assists the City Manager in the operational and financial aspects of all City functions and coordinates interdepartmental activities.

City Assessor

City Attorney

City Police Chief

School Board Members

The city has an elected at-large school board. Prior to 2006, members of the Charlottesville City School Board were appointed by the City Council.

City Council Standing Committee assignments (2020 – 2021)

Advisory City Council Committees

Most, but not all, of Council's standing committees are organized into specific policy areas. The committees each have a chair, vice chair and a minimum of 3 members. They consider policy areas that are directed to them by the Council. The committees report back to the full Council on their work. The standing committees have special rules for appointing leadership and members. All five Council members serve on the various Committees. City Council Committees do not replace the City Council as final decision makers on behalf of the full City Council.

Appointment of advisory boards, committees and commissions

refer to Main Article: List of Boards and Commissions

The City Council appoints various boards, commissions, and committees to support the City Council in the policymaking and decision making processes. One or two City Council members may serve on a committee as a representative of, or liaison to, the City Council.

Charlottesville City Council reviews Boards & Commissions applications on a quarterly basis after an opening has been posted for a minimum of 30 days, unless Council determines a vacancy needs to be filled sooner and a deadline is posted otherwise. Council may extend a deadline as necessary. The appointment schedule for 2020 is as follows:

  • January 6, 2020
  • March 16, 2020 (application deadline March 6, 2020)
  • June 15, 2020 (application deadline June 5, 2020)
  • September 21, 2020 (application deadline September 11, 2020)
  • December 21, 2020 (application deadline December 11, 2020)


Committee members are not compensated for their service. City Council members are compensated for their service but do not receive any additional compensation for serving on a standing committee, ad hoc committee, or other committee.

City population

Population as of most recent census (April 1, 2010): 43,475

  • According to the current data from U.S. Census Bureau Quickfacts, the estimated population in 2018 was 48,117, which represents a 10.67% population growth since the last census.
  • The area within the city limits was 10.27 square miles, giving it a population density of about 4,600 people per square mile. Relative to local populations, Charlottesville has one seat for every 8,700 residents.
  • As for historically under-represented groups, the city has about the same percentage of blacks in council as in the general populations; in Charlottesville, blacks makeup 18.3 percent of the population [20] and 20 percent of the council.

General notes

  • Elections are non-partisan elections.
  • The council post videos of council meetings online as well as searchable databases of legislation.
  • Council does not post members’ personal financial disclosure statements or lobbying records.

City Council Regular Meeting Schedule for 2020

Regularly scheduled Council meetings take place on the first and third Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall pursuant to Charlottesville City Code Section 2-41. If a regularly scheduled Council meeting falls on a holiday, then the meeting will take place on Tuesday. Council normally cancels one meeting during the summer months. In 2019, the Charlottesville City Council (2018-2019) cancelled its July 15 meeting. During the January 6, 2020 meeting, the current Council will discuss its preference for cancelling one of its summer meetings. If Council decides to cancel a meeting, the schedule will be amended to reflect the cancellation.

As of January 6, 2020, the proposed regular Council meeting schedule for 2020 is as follows:

  • Monday, January 6, 2020
  • Tuesday, January 21, 2020
  • February 3, 2020
  • Tuesday, February 18, 2020
  • March 2, 2020
  • March 16, 2020
  • April 6, 2020 - CANCELED
  • April 20, 2020 - Public hearings online
Council held its first regular monthly meeting using a Virtual Meeting platform via Livestream (view only).
  • May 4, 2020
  • May 18, 2020
  • June 1, 2020
  • June 15, 2020
  • July 6, 2020
  • July 20, 2020
  • August 3, 2020
  • August 17, 2020
  • Tuesday, September 8, 2020
  • September 21, 2020
  • October 5, 2020
  • October 19, 2020
  • November 2, 2020
  • November 16, 2020
  • December 7, 2020
  • December 21, 2020

Italics indicate an adjusted date due to a holiday.

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  4. Web. Walker to continue as Charlottesville mayor; Magill named vice mayor, Nolan Stout,, The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, VA, January 6, 2020, retrieved February 5, 2020.
  5. Web. Walker to continue as Charlottesville mayor; Magill named vice mayor, Nolan Stout,, The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, VA, January 6, 2020, retrieved February 5, 2020.
  8. "General Information: Senate Template:Webarchive."
  9. "[ General Information: House of Delegates Template:Webarchive.
  10. Web. Sec. 2-202 - Compensation of the Board of Supervisors, Albemarle County, County Code, Municode, retrieved January 1, 2020.
  15., Council decides on process for hiring city attorney, Charlottesville Tomorrow, Sean Tubbs, April 14, 2018, May 22, 2019
  16. Web. Packet for March 6, 2019 public interviews of managerial candidates, March 5, 2019, retrieved March 6, 2019.
  19. Web. Brackney officially chosen as Charlottesville police chief, Chris Suarez, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, May 21, 2018, retrieved May 28, 2018.

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