JCC Citizens at Budget Hearing Largely Support Tax Increase, School Funding

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A citizen speaks during Tuesday's public hearing on James City County's budget. (Gregory Connolly/WYDaily)
A citizen speaks during Tuesday’s public hearing on James City County’s budget. (Gregory Connolly/WYDaily)

A public hearing over a proposed tax increase in James City County on Tuesday featured mostly citizens who want the board of supervisors to agree to the increase to pay for fixes to several areas County Administrator Bryan Hill has identified as critical needs.

Out of 19 speakers, nine speakers outright supported the increase, while three others spoke to the need to fully fund schools without taking a position on the tax question.

Another of the speakers urged the supervisors to accept at least part of the proposed increase to pay for improvements to stormwater infrastructure.

Hill has identified five areas — schools, water, economic development, county appearance and stormwater — along with the need to ensure the county is fiscally healthy as areas of critical need during this budget cycle. To fix those problems, he has proposed an 11 percent increase to the real estate tax, which would push it 8.2 cents to 85.2 cents per $100 of assessed value.

For a closer look at what Hill has identified as critical needs, click here.

Six citizens said they opposed the tax increase. Chris Henderson and Jay Everson addressed the board together, presenting a Powerpoint detailing how they would cut the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year so that taxes would not need to be raised. A copy of the presentation the two created for the board meeting is available here.

They made several suggestions, including slashing several jobs in departments throughout the county government along with ignoring stormwater projects until the county has a better idea of what state and federal regulators expect it to do to address runoff into the Chesapeake Bay. They also suggested modifying block scheduling at Williamsburg-James City County Schools.

Most of the citizens who spoke in support of a tax increase cited their quality of life as James City County residents and the need to maintain it.

“This is not a minimum standards county,” Richard Minor said. “There’s nobody in this room who thinks this is a minimum standards county.”

Susan Gaston spoke on behalf of the Williamsburg Area Association of Realtors, saying her group supports the tax increase to maintain services that make James City County a desirable place to live.

Three employees of WJCC schools urged the supervisors to fully fund the school system’s request for funding. While Hill’s budget proposal shifts an additional $3.2 million to schools for infrastructure costs and about $1.6 million more for operations funding, it falls about $610,000 short of what the schools have requested from the county.

Hill’s proposal would raise an additional $9,020,000, which would add about $240 per year to the tax bill of the owner of a $300,000 home. The county has not raised its tax rate since 1996.

The supervisors did not make any remarks about the budget or the tax increase during Tuesday’s meeting. They will meet again today to discuss the budget at a 4:30 p.m. work session. During a series of community meetings, Supervisor Mary Jones (Berkeley) has come out against the tax rate increase, while supervisors John McGlennon (Roberts) and Jim Kennedy (Stonehouse) have not taken a position.

Supervisors Michael Hipple (Powhatan) and Kevin Onizuk (Jamestown) have not yet held their community meetings. They will be held as follows:

  • Powhatan District, 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the James City County Recreation Center
  • Jamestown District, 6:30 p.m. April 23 at the James City County Recreation Center

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