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In his first budget season since taking over as city manager, Marvin Collins is proposing a $58.2 million budget for next year that includes a merit increase for employees and adds four new full-time positions.
Collins, who began as the City of Williamsburg’s manager in August, released his budget proposal to the public Friday. At $58,203,466, it is 3.19 percent larger than the current fiscal year’s budget.
“The general theme to the budget is that Williamsburg continues to experience improving revenues and fiscal outlook,” Collins said. “When you’ve come through a recession like the country’s been through, Williamsburg’s no exception, there’s deferred maintenance in the replacement of technology and systems, so this budget begins to address replacement of the dated technology and infrastructure.”
City Council will have final say on the budget, which is slated for adoption in May.
The proposed total budget for fiscal 2017, which begins July 1, has a $35.45 million operating budget for an increase of 2.75 percent over 2016. The proposed operating budget fully funds the $9.1 million request from Williamsburg-James City County Schools, though the total transfer from the city will depend on James City County’s contribution in accordance with the contract between the two localities.
The predicted growth in revenue comes without a change to the city’s real estate tax rate, which will remain at 57 cents per $100 of assessed value.
Continuing a trend that dates back more than 10 years for the city, the water and sewer rate will increase again, this year by 3.5 percent – from $5.12 per 1,000 gallons to $5.30. The water rate would maintain its status as the lowest in Hampton Roads if no other localities lower rates.
Tax collections are projected to grow across the board: personal-use vehicle values by 3 percent; room and meal tax receipts by 5.7 and 3.1 percent, respectively; and real estate values by 2.2 percent – a 1.6 percent increase on average for residential properties and 3.6 percent on average for commercial for a total value of about $1.83 billion.
The commercial real estate assessments, which grew by less than 1 percent in fiscal 2016, are seeing a significant uptick because of development throughout the city.
“There’s a general increase in the commercial market. It’s not concentrated in one area,” Collins said. “I can’t think of an area in the city where we haven’t been to a ribbon-cutting in the past year.”
The predicted revenue growth will allow the city to offer a 2 percent merit increase to city employees and create four new full-time positions.
One of the new positions will be a financial technician, needed largely because of an upcoming overhaul in the city’s financial management technology that will cost the city about $600,000 over the next two years.
The remaining new full-time positions will be in the fire department, which will look to hire three people to largely serve as medics, though they will also be trained as firefighters. The request for the positions from the fire department stems from the steady rise in both medical calls and special events that require the presence of emergency personnel, Collins said.
The proposed budget also calls for $40,000 toward a Pay and Classification Study, which has not been conducted in the city since the 1990s, to evaluate the existing salary and benefit levels in an effort to attract and retain an “exceptional” staff, Collins said. The city intends to complete the study before next year’s budget process.
Both the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation will receive their full funding requests, if City Council passes the proposal as-is. While Colonial Williamsburg asked for the same $1.3 million as last year, the Alliance will receive the $50,000 increase it requested for a total of $800,000.
While the Economic Development Authority receives its requested $10,000 increase – for a total of $110,000 – to heighten its focus on recruiting businesses to the city, the Economic Development Office has been allocated about $8,900 less than the amount approved for the current fiscal year in the 2017 proposal.
The EDA is an appointed board that operates independent of the city; the Economic Development Office is a department within the city government.
The proposal also fully funds the requests from the Human Services Board, Williamsburg Area Arts Commission and Williamsburg Regional Library.
The proposed Capital Improvements Program contains 29 projects that, with debt service included, add up to $11.8 million for fiscal 2017.
The most expensive line item on the CIP is the $2.2 million the city has earmarked as contingency funds to cover WJCC Schools’ current shortfall in capital funding for the fourth middle school project. Collins said the funds are a contingency plan if the schools are unable to lower costs to close the gap, and the schools could request an amount lower than the $2.2 million the city has set aside.
The CIP also includes $1.9 million for the Second Street underground wiring project; $1.5 million for the first phase of the Ironbound-Longhill intersection improvements; and $1 million to repave several streets in the city.
City Council will meet for its first work session on the proposed budget April 11. Though it is not scheduled as a public hearing, citizens may speak during the open forum period. The first public hearing on the budget is slated for April 14.
A second budget work session, scheduled for April 18, will be held if council deems it necessary.
Adoption of the budget is expected May 12.
Click here to read the full budget proposal.