The James City County Board of Supervisors entered the second phase of its strategic planning process Tuesday afternoon when it identified priority goals and debated whether advancing public education should be among them.
Representatives from Clarion Associates presented highlights from the Foundations Report, the product of the first phase of the process, to the Board during its work session Feb. 9.
The report was compiled following interviews with stakeholders, a review of the county’s policies and the completion of economic and fiscal analyses.
Topics in James City County, such as the need to diversify the local economy and attracting younger generation workers and families, are organized under four strategic themes: regional and local economic development; fiscal health, efficiency, and sustainability; infrastructure, facilities, and services; and community character.
One planning topic not included under any of these themes is advancing public education.
Greg Dale, a founding principal with the Cincinnati affiliate of Clarion, McBride Dale Clarion, encouraged Board members to think about the strategic plan as a “business plan for the county government,” not necessarily one for the county as a whole.
“Who can’t argue that one of the most important things, if not the most important thing, we should be doing in our county is making sure we have good quality education? The question then becomes, ‘What is James City County’s, as a county government’s, role in education?’” Dale said. “Obviously you’re a funder but you don’t set curriculum.”
He asked the supervisors to consider whether they want to make a distinction between goals they can control and items they want to “lead the thinking on.”
Supervisor Ruth Larson (Berkeley) said the fact the county funds the majority of the Williamsburg-James City County School Division’s budget is reason enough for education to tie into the county government’s strategic plan.
“My concern about education is we’re the funder. That’s the biggest chunk of our budget,” Larson said. “Somehow we have to draw attention to that and make it on the forefront so people understand that this has to be a priority.”
Supervisor Kevin Onizuk (Jamestown) agreed with the need for a distinction and said advancing education is the strategic plan of the WJCC School Board, not necessarily the county.
“I think [education] is critical and one of the top priorities for our community, but I’m thinking of this as the James City County Board of Supervisors,” Onizuk said. “As far as strategic planning goes, that’s [the School Board’s] strategic plan.”
Board Chairman Michael Hipple (Powhatan) said the plan should help the county determine how it can fund its budget and, subsequently, public education.
“I look at what we’re doing in James City County a little differently. How do we end up being able to fund that bigger part of our budget?” Hipple said. “That’s where I’m looking to enhance our funding, to cover that chunk we’re spending on schools.”
Board members were given a list of goals categorized under the four strategic themes and were asked to select their top five priorities.
Three of the supervisors – Larson, John McGlennon (Roberts) and Sue Sadler (Stonehouse) – included advancing education among their top five. All of the supervisors, with the exception of McGlennon, listed a long-term raw water solution as their No. 1 priority.
Clarion Associates will conduct a goals analysis and confirm the priority goals with the Strategic Planning Advisory Group and the Technical Advisory Group on March 7.
Residents are invited to a public open house event March 30 where they can learn more about the strategic planning process and the progress so far. Meeting documents, including the Foundation report, can be found at jccstrategy2035.org.
The phase two report will be presented to SPAG and TAG on April 25 and to the Board of Supervisors May 24.