Wednesday, October 5, 2022

James City County budget set for 2019, reflects additional funding from sales tax increase

Supervisor John McGlennon says the 2019 budget gives James City County "opportunities for us to build a stronger and better community." (Bryan DeVasher/WYDaily)
Supervisor John McGlennon says the 2019 budget gives James City County “opportunities for us to build a stronger and better community.” (Bryan DeVasher/WYDaily)

JAMES CITY — James City County has adopted its budget for the 2019 fiscal year.

The county’s Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday for a $255 million budget that includes money to hire additional firefighters and police officers, as well as to upgrade radios for first responders.

“We have a budget in front of us that I think has done a lot of good things,” Supervisor John McGlennon said before voting in favor of its adoption. “It’s given us lots of opportunities for us to build a stronger and better community, but make no mistake about it, there are still a lot of things that people are looking at us to do that will require us to be very careful in prioritizing as we move along.”

The county tax rates on real estate, personal property, boats, and machinery and tools will not change from fiscal year 2018 to 2019, according to county documents.

Senate Bill 942, which was passed by the General Assembly, will go into effect July 1 if the City of Williamsburg repeals the ordinance for their Tourism Development Fund at their Thursday meeting.

The bill will raise the state sales tax in the City of Williamsburg and James City and York counties by 1 percentage point. Fifty percent of the funds generated from the bill are given back to local governments.

“This has been a very unusual, peculiar budget season because of the role SB 942 has played. it is a true reflection of the Dillon rule,” McGlennon said. “We’d like to have the flexibility to decide for our community the best way to raise revenue, not to have the revenue raised for us with the expectation of this is how you will use that money.”

The Dillon rule, adopted in Virginia in 1896, restricts the power of the state’s localities.

Public safety is priority in budget

A projected $5.5 million in funding will be generated in James City County from the sales tax increase. The extra money will be put toward the hiring of six new firefighters, three new police officers, a new emergency radio system, county studies on office space and the Primary Service Area, new school buses and the redesign of school entrances.

Williamsburg James City County Schools will receive about $93.37 million from the general fund and $14 million from the capital improvements plan fund.

The use of the additional funding was a point of contention.

Supervisor Sue Sadler was the only member of the board to vote against the proposed budget. She motioned to amend the proposed budget by reducing the machinery and tools tax by 25 percent, which she said would amount to saving county citizens about $1.25 million.

Sadler said that with the increase in tax revenue generated by SB 942, she would have liked to have seen a reduction in taxes elsewhere.

“This is a perfect opportunity to be able to offer some help back [to taxpayers] to show we are open for business and are business friendly, and an effort to say we appreciate you doing business here,” Sadler said. “It’s like my daddy taught me long ago — you don’t have to spend every nickel you get.”

Her motion was voted down by the other supervisors, with Michael Hipple and John McGlennon expressing they were unsure where corresponding spending cuts in the budget would be made.

Sadler suggested removing the office space study, which would cost the county about $125,000.

Two citizens, including 2017 board candidate Joe Swanenburg, also spoke during the public comment period of the meeting in favor of returning some of the new tax funding to county citizens.

Board Chair Ruth Larson said she would like to see the use of SB 942 funding be revisited during the next budget cycle.

A rough breakdown of the FY 2019 budget as compared to the FY2018 budget. (Courtesy James City County)
A rough breakdown of the FY 2019 budget as compared to the FY 2018 budget. (Courtesy James City County)

McGlennon said he was in favor of the budget because it filled the funding requests from WJCC Schools, funds public safety and continues the process of paying down debt.

The budget goes into effect July 1 and runs through June 30, 2019.

Budget season is in full swing, with York County adopting their budget last weekend and Williamsburg’s City Council scheduled to vote on their budget Thursday afternoon.

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