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James City County Administrator Bryan Hill has proposed an operating budget for fiscal 2017 that is $6.2 million greater than last year’s and does not include any tax rate increases.
The budget, which would cover July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017, totals $193,475,000, a 3.3 percent increase from Fiscal 2016. The real estate tax rate established last year, 84 cents per $100 of assessed value, will not change, Hill said.
The county credits a “slowly improving economy” for the revenue increase.
Real estate revenues grew $2,096,000, or 2.3 percent. The majority of the increase can be attributed to growth, which Sue Mellen, the county’s director of financial and management services, defined as new properties, homes or commercial buildings.
Reassessments also contributed to the increase: commercial reassessments grew by 3.2 percent while residential reassessments increased by 0.3 percent.
Revenues from personal property taxes grew by $1.4 million, an increase the county attributes to a 4 percent increase in number of vehicles and 7 percent increase in the value of vehicles.
Local sales, meals, lodging, and recordation taxes are expected to contribute $1.7 million, which is higher than the county had projected earlier this year.
In fiscal 2016, $1.5 million from the real estate tax rate increase was used to eliminate a planned withdrawal from the county’s debt reserves. In fiscal 2017, $1.5 million will go into a Special Projects Fund so the county can qualify for a state Road Match program. The allocation will provide the county with $3 million it can put toward high-priority road improvement projects, such as the Skiffes Creek Connector.
Slightly more than half of the $6.2 million increase will go toward the Williamsburg-James City County School Division’s operating budget. The total allocation, $103,283,448, fulfills 95.4 percent of the funding requested of the county by the school division, Mellen said.
There will be a 3.8 percent increase in county funding for WJCC schools over fiscal 2016, but there will also be a 1.2 percent decrease in state funding. Mellen said it is frustrating to see the state continue to underfund its portion because “schools are an integral part of the community.”
“We want them to have the funding they need,” Mellen said. “To have over 50 percent of the increase go to the schools, it shows we’re trying.”
Additionally, the county was only able to satisfy 78.3 percent of the school division’s requested $4.04 million increase from fiscal 2016.
The proposal includes a fiscal 2017 budget, a fiscal 2018 budget – which Hill considers a “placeholder” – and a five-year Capital Improvement Program through fiscal 2021.
While the CIP includes more than $5.8 million for the schools in fiscal 2017, with the most money going toward roof and HVAC system replacements at Norge Elementary School, the five-year program does not include the auxiliary gym, walkway or field lighting requested by Lafayette parents and athletes.
Hill said such facility expansions would be considered upon completion of the strategic plan later this year.
“We have to put a plan in place to afford these new structures,” Hill said. “I don’t believe that a board should haphazardly drop one in out of the clear blue sky without a planning process.”
The same approach applied to the decision to leave CIP requests for the Jamestown Beach Event Park and the James City County Marina unfunded in the five-year program.
The No. 1 request recommended by the Planning Commission, stormwater system improvements, is fully funded in the five-year CIP.
The James City Service Authority will benefit from a second year of rate changes. Beginning July 1, the fixed quarterly charge will increase from $7.22 to $8.19 for water and $5.66 to $5.77 for sewer per 1,000 gallons.
Sewer fees will increase from $2.93 to $2.99 per 1,000 gallons. Water fees will increase at each of the three tiers, which are determined by a household’s water use. The average “first tier” user’s bill would increase from $31.30 per month to $33.60 per month.
The changes will result in an additional $915,000 in revenue, yet rates will remain lower than any other locality in the region.
Hill said the goal of the Fiscal 2016 budget was to “shore up” the capital maintenance plan. In fiscal 2017, Hill said the county is on “level ground” and continuing its strategic planning process so it can have a plan for how to “afford the vision of the future.”
A public hearing on the budget will be held during the April 26 Board of Supervisors meeting. In the next couple weeks community meetings on the budget will be held in the five districts, each at 6:30 p.m.
- April 5 – Roberts District – Government Center Board Room, 101 Mounts Bay Road, Building F
- April 7 – Powhatan District – Lois S. Hornsby Middle School, 850 Jolly Pond Road
- April 13 – Jamestown District – Legacy Hall, 4301 New Town Avenue
- April 19 – Berkeley District – Jamestown High School Auditorium, 3751 John Tyler Highway
- April 21 – Stonehouse District – James City County Library, 7770 Croaker Road
The Board will vote on the proposed Fiscal 2017 budget, the Fiscal 2018 budget and the JCSA budget during the May 10 regular meeting.