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The James City County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a two-year operating budget and a five-year capital projects budget that includes funding for an auxiliary gym at Lafayette High School on Tuesday night.
The operating budget for Fiscal 2017 totals $193,415,000. The largest chunk of the budget, $103,283,448, will go toward the operating budget of the WJCC School Division, an allocation that covers 95.4 percent of the funding requested of the county by the school division.
The real estate tax rate established last year, 84 cents per $100 of assessed value, will remain unchanged.
Shortly after approving the budgets, members of the Board of Supervisors praised staff for their assistance.
“It’s amazing what quality people we have in James City County and the school system,” Board Chairman Michael Hipple said. “I’m so proud to be a part of a team that works so hard for the citizens.”
Supervisor Sue Sadler (Stonehouse) said she hoped the county could find areas of the budget in the future that would “bring tax relief to the citizens” while Supervisor Ruth Larson said it is important the county “continues to support quality of life in James City County.”
The county and the school division benefit from a $6.2 million increase in revenue, which county officials attribute to a “slowly improving economy” in the areas of real estate, vehicles and tourism-related taxes such as sales, meals and lodging.
The majority of the increase, 50.4 percent, will go to support the school division. Additionally, 21.4 percent will go toward capital projects, debt services and regional entities while 28.2 percent will go to county departments, primarily public safety.
The operating budget is $60,000 less than County Administrator Bryan Hill had originally proposed because the county’s law enforcement will receive less state funding than anticipated. To compensate for the loss, the county will discontinue its membership in the Virginia Municipal League and make minor cuts to other departments.
Compared to the fiscal 2016 budget, which introduced the 9 percent increase to the real estate tax rate, the fiscal 2017 budget was generally uncontroversial.
The item that generated the most discussion was originally omitted from the capital improvement plan budget – the proposed auxiliary gym at Lafayette High School.
Although the gym was included in the WJCC School Division 10-year CIP and listed as a priority project by the JCC Planning Commission, Hill did not fund it, as he said he wanted to complete the strategic planning process before funding the construction of new facilities.
Lafayette students, parents and coaches attended the public hearing on the budget April 26 and advocated for the gym to be funded. After Hill and Superintendent Steven Constantino discussed ways to resolve the issue, Sue Mellen, the county’s director of financial and management services, presented the Board of Supervisors with two funding options for fiscal 2017.
The Board ultimately chose to take $1,250,000 of the revenue from the sale of a $26,750,000 bond for the fourth middle school and put it toward construction of the gym. The WJCC School Division has committed $1 million to the project while the City of Williamsburg has budgeted $130,605 for the gym.
During its work session Tuesday night, the School Board awarded a $222,151 contract for the gym’s architecture and design to Virginia Beach-based HBA Architecture Interior Design. The cost of the work will be covered by the leftover balance from HVAC projects at Toano Middle School, the WJCC Schools operations building, and the Rawls Byrd Elementary School gym.
On Tuesday, several residents called on the Board to restore funding for the Neighborhood Basketball League, a program of the Community Action Agency. Vice Chairman John McGlennon (Roberts) voted in favor of the budget but said he would like more information on the program before ruling out the potential to fund it.