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The City of Williamsburg’s proposed budget for next year has been tweaked to better reflect its commitment to business recruitment, though still falls short of the requested amount for the city’s Economic Development Office.
If City Council adopts the fiscal 2017 budget proposal today with the adjustments presented at Monday’s work session, the Economic Development Office will receive $10,000 more than City Manager Marvin Collins initially proposed. Council is slated to adopt the budget at its meeting 2 p.m. today in the Stryker Center.
The increase restores the department’s professional services line item, which typically pays for the cost of consultants or other outside experts and specialists, to the $20,000 total it received in the current fiscal year. The money can be used for other expenses, such as business recruitment, at the discretion of Economic Development Director Michele DeWitt.
Though the department is receiving $10,000 more than Collins’ original proposal, it does not grant the Economic Development Authority’s request for the city to provide the Economic Development Office an overall increase of $20,000 increase for business recruitment. Instead, the department’s budget is almost level with the current fiscal year.
The EDA is an appointed advisory board that operates independent of the city; the Economic Development Office is a department within the city government.
Fiscal 2017 begins July 1.
When the EDA submitted its funding proposal earlier this year, it included a request for a $10,000 increase for business recruitment for its own budget. In the same Jan. 13 letter to the city, the EDA also asked that a $20,000 increase to the Economic Development Office’s budget be considered for new business recruitment efforts.
While the EDA received its $10,000 increase in the budget proposal Collins unveiled March 25, the Economic Development Office’s budget was slashed by $10,000. The EDA’s increase remains along with the latest injection of money to the city department’s budget.
The latest increase to the Economic Development Office’s budget came after Vice Mayor Paul Freiling, during the April 11 council work session, questioned why there had been a decrease to the department’s budget when the EDA had identified new business recruitment as a priority.
“We talk about retaining businesses … and we should do everything we can to keep the businesses that help build this economy here, but we also need to be thinking in a bigger way about how we’re actively going out and recruiting new businesses,” said Freiling, who emphasized the importance of face-to-face visits in recruiting efforts.
Freiling, who serves as council’s liaison to the EDA, asked Collins to look into whether there was flexibility in the budget to give DeWitt a cushion if a recruitment opportunity comes about.
“It may not be spent if the opportunity doesn’t present itself,” Freiling said. “My concern is that if there is not enough money there and an opportunity comes up for travel, I would hate to see that decision made simply because the allocation wasn’t already in the budget.”
During the April 11 meeting, Collins said the initial decision to cut the Economic Development Office’s budget was because of the need for professional services funds for other departments, and the cut was not meant to mirror the increase in the EDA budget.
Last month, Collins told WYDaily he did not earmark the new $10,000 increase for business recruitment because the Greater Williamsburg Partnership, a collaboration of the EDAs from the city, James City County and York County, are currently conducting a Targeted Industries Study that is meant to determine the types of industries the area should focus on attracting.
“At this time there isn’t a need for funding that is specific to business recruitment, but now there is $10,000 more for that department if something does come up,” he said.