Haulman: Public Input Shapes Budget Despite Low Hearing Turnout

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The Williamsburg City Council held a public hearing on the city's proposed 2016 budget at its meeting Thursday. (Ian Brickey/WYDaily)
The Williamsburg City Council hosted a public hearing on the city’s proposed 2016 budget at its meeting Thursday. (Ian Brickey/WYDaily)

Leaders in the City of Williamsburg were undeterred by the low turnout for the public hearing on the city’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016.

One resident spoke during a public comment period on the proposed $56 million budget for fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1, but Mayor Clyde Haulman said citizen input on the budget extended beyond one City Council meeting.

Haulman traced the extent of public input on the budget back to the biennial Goals, Initiatives and Outcomes process, which sets the city’s aspirations over two-year periods.

“I see the budget as an organic entity that comes out of the Goals and Initiatives and the public process there really determines what comes out for the budget,” Haulman said. “If you get lots of participation there, then you’re not going to get a lot of participation in budget time because the budget’s going to make sense in terms of all that discussion from earlier.”

Public input at that phase, Haulman said, ensured nothing included in the proposed budget would be a surprise to citizens.

The hearing’s sole speaker, city resident John Whitley, urged council members to include funding for the installation of speed humps on Governor Berkeley Road, which was initially approved by the council in February.

On March 28, City Manager Jack Tuttle debuted the proposed budget, which does not include a tax increase for next year. The $34.4 million operational portion of the budget is a nominal increase over last year’s figure, largely due to a 2.8 percent increase in the city’s property tax revenue.

Finance Director Phil Serra said several small changes had been made to the proposed budget since its release.

An additional $3,831 has been directed toward the Williamsburg Regional Library, while an extra $10,000 would be allocated to the Williamsburg Area Arts Commission.

The city’s contribution to Williamsburg-James City County Schools was reduced by about $56,000 to keep the amount in line with the funding formula outlined in the joint schools contract with James City County. The contract specifies a funding formula based on student enrollment, attributing 90.5 percent of the schools local funding request to James City County and 9.5 percent to Williamsburg.

Serra said the city reformulated its contribution to the schools after James City County Administrator Bryan Hill’s budget left a $361,000 gap between the county’s allocation and WJCC’s request.

A similar reconciliation of the city and county Capital Improvement Plans, which oversee large-dollar construction projects, raised Williamsburg’s contribution to the WJCC CIP by nearly $302,000 for all fiscal year 2016 projects except the proposed fourth middle school.

The joint schools contract does not lay out a funding formula for splitting the cost of school construction, leaving it to the two localities to negotiate a figure.

Both Hill and Tuttle included placeholder figures in their proposed CIPs for construction of the fourth middle school at the site of the James Blair administrative offices, but have not finalized any negotiations.

Haulman said city staff members were in contact with their counterparts in the county and schools, and would remain so throughout the budget process.

He also said city staff and City Council members continued to discuss the budget, and other “marginal changes” were possible before the final adoption of the budget May 14.

The City Council has another budget work session scheduled for April 13 at the Municipal Building.

A full copy of the budget is available online here.

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