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The operators of Jamestown Settlement have requested an additional $45,000 from James City County for the upcoming fiscal year to help pay for an exhibit that details trading between European settlers and Native Americans.
The request comes as James City County works to set its budget for the next fiscal year, which runs from July 1 through June 2016. The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, which operates Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center, received $100,000 in the current fiscal year and has submitted a request for the next one for $145,000.
JYF, an entity of the state government, is contending with budget cuts from Richmond totaling almost $925,000 between July 2014 and June 2016. The cuts affect all areas of JYF’s operations, meaning it cannot depend on Richmond to pay for new exhibits like Trading with the Indians, the working title of an exhibition it wants to open next year at Jamestown Settlement.
Of the $145,000 JYF has requested from James City County for the upcoming fiscal year, $115,000 would be devoted to Trading with the Indians. That exhibit would open next year and run from March 27 to Nov. 27.
“We’re talking about this huge industry, particularly in animal pelts,” Peter Armstrong, JYF’s senior director of museum operations and education, told the James City County Board of Supervisors at a budget work session Monday.
Armstrong said trades between European settlers and Native Americans came to generate more than $100 million per year worth of economic activities in today’s dollars and it served as an important bridge between two cultures. James City County has in the past contributed to exhibits including A New World: England’s First View of America and Werowocomoco.
Phil Emerson, JYF’s executive director, told the supervisors the new exhibit would serve as a great resource for locals and as a tool to draw more tourists to the area. Paid attendance to both Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center has trended downward in recent years, with 614,606 people paying to get in to both attractions in 2009 compared to 546,671 in 2014.
The supervisors said little after the JYF presentation at Monday’s board work session. Supervisor Kevin Onizuk (Jamestown) said he appreciates all of the work JYF does before asking how the additional investment it wants would bring more tourists to the area.
Emerson said he would categorize the new exhibit as “product development” and that “product is essential” for marketing the area.
“It will give tools to our partners to say what’s new and different in this area,” he said. “It’s essential to say what’s new and different in the Historic Triangle, what’s new and different at Jamestown Settlement.”
Supervisor Jim Kennedy (Stonehouse) said he believes the state government has “shirked its responsibility” for funding tourism. JYF is a public entity under the umbrella of the state government. In the recently passed state budget set to cover the fiscal year running from July 1 through June 2016, JYF received an allocation of $16,436,644.
That total will be cut by 7 percent during that next fiscal year, costing JYF $557,629. JYF lost an additional $367,363 during the current fiscal year — which runs from July 1, 2014 through June 30 — totaling $924,992 in lost state revenue from July 1, 2014 through June 2016.
“If we pick up additional monies this year, we’re doing what we’ve done with the commonwealth across the board,” he said. “We’ve continued to pick up their shortages, and that’s my concern.”
Emerson said JYF’s main source of revenue is admissions and private gifts and that while the state does contribute funding, it does not send enough for “points of programming and excellence just like this.”
Emerson said JYF’s two museums generate a combined $108 million of annual economic activity, drawing 79 percent of its individual visitors from outside the state. The foundation employs 162 full-time and more than 250 part-time residents, and it operates an extensive educational outreach program that brought in 149,870 students to the two museums last year, including 4,738 from Williamsburg-James City County Schools.
For these reasons, Emerson said Jamestown Settlement is a valuable part of James City County and a worthy recipient of money from the county’s tourism fund. In addition to the $115,000 for the new exhibit, JYF wants $15,000 for interpretive programs, special events and educational materials and $15,000 for holiday events like Food and Feasts of Colonial Virginia and A Colonial Christmas.
The budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year from County Administrator Bryan Hill suggests $2.385 million in total expenditures from the tourism fund. Of that, $825,000 is required by law to go to the Williamsburg Area Destination Marketing Committee, leaving $1.56 million to spend on projects and attractions that bring more tourists to James City County.
Hill’s budget proposal suggests no increases in funding from the tourism fund to any group, with allocations remaining largely level. The allocation to the Virginia Arts Festival would decline by $7,500 to $12,500.
“I’m not changing the budget unless I get a definitive request [from the board],” Hill said at Monday’s work session. “The reason why I’m doing this is going down the road, you’ve asked me to look 5 and 10 years out. These funds can be used to do a lot of different things.”
He mentioned he wants to save money in the fund to pay for a planned replacement of turf at the Warhill Sports Complex. If enough money is saved in the fund, it would not require taking out debt to pay for the turf repair work. Municipal infrastructure work is often funded through debt.
Money in the fund comes from two places: a $2-per-night room tax which is required by law to go to WADMC and additional revenue from hotel rooms. It does not take money generated by the real estate tax.
An 11 percent real estate tax rate increase is under consideration by the supervisors as part of the proposed budget, dominating much of the conversation during a series of community meetings held by the supervisors.
The tourism fund also sends money to several other groups related to tourism, including the Virginia Arts Festival, the LPGA tournament that comes to Kingsmill each year, Preservation Virginia and the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance.
The supervisors have one more budget work session scheduled for 4 p.m. today. After today’s work session, no more budget meetings are scheduled prior to April 28, when the board is slated to vote on the budget proposal issued by Hill.