It’s that time of the year again: budget season.
In the Historic Triangle, James City County, York County and the City of Williamsburg are shaping what their fiscal year 2020 budgets will look like — from property tax rates, to capital improvement projects, to school funding and more.
School boards and other organizations and nonprofits have made their funding requests.
James City County prepares a biennial 2-year budget. Last year, the county released its fiscal year 2019-2020 budget, meaning the county, for the most part, had the FY2020 budget mostly pre-planned.
It was pretty easy for me because this is year two,” said Scott Stevens, who has been James City County’s county administrator since last fall.
WYDaily sat down with James City County officials Thursday to get a look into what this fiscal year’s budget includes.
Taxes and revenue
Revenue for fiscal year 2020 was slightly above anticipated when the 2-year budget was passed last year.
The fiscal year 2020 proposed budget for all county funds and the James City Service Authority is $247 million, an $8.9 million — or 3.5 percent — decrease compared to the fiscal year 2019 budget.
Much of that decrease can be attributed to a decrease in funding for capital improvement projects.
The county has slightly more revenue than originally anticipated, about $2.7 million, Stevens said, but overall, the budget remains the same as originally planned last year.
“We had more money, but not enough for what everyone requested,” Stevens said.
In part, fairly stable revenue means the county is not seeking any property tax increases.
The real estate tax rate remains at 84 cents per $100 of assessed property value. That rate has not increased since fiscal year 2016.
Even though revenue saw a slight increase, and property taxes are not increasing, some county fees will see an increase, including ambulance fees.
County staff is also proposing to start charging a monthly $7 for curbside recycling because the net cost of recycling operations has “increased drastically” for contractors providing pick up services, Stevens wrote in the budget message.
There will also be a 13.5 percent increase in JCSA fees, which is part of a 5-year rate change plan.
Funding for Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools makes up about 52 percent of the county’s full budget.
The next-highest area of funding is public safety, at about 14 percent.
The fiscal year 2020 budget originally planned to give WJCC Schools $109.9 million, but Stevens is proposing to give $110.5 instead.
Both James City County and the City of Williamsburg fund the schools, which is based on the number of students from each locality in rolling 5-year enrollment average.
Financial Management Services Director Suzanne Mellen said James City County students make up 90.52 percent of the school division.
WJCC Schools requested more, but Mellen said the entire request could not be met.
The county is about $1 million short of the school board’s full request, Mellen said.
Services and employment
James City County has been gradually adding firefighters to its roster in preparation for the opening of a sixth fire station within the next two or three years.
This year, the county has proposed to hire six firefighters. Six were also hired last year, and six more will likely be hired in 2022.
A new fire station will need 18 firefighters to be fully staffed.
The county’s capital improvement plan for fiscal year 2020 is slated to pay for the design of the fire station. Construction will likely begin the following year, Stevens said.
As it stands right now, the county is working with Thomas Nelson Community College to regain land it had originally given to the college near the Law Enforcement Center, which could be used for the new fire station.
Besides the new firefighters, the county also proposes hiring three police officers, four people in general services and purchasing and one person for the treasurer’s office.
The budget also includes a 3 percent raise for full-time county employees, which would go into effect in October.
Senate Bill 942
Senate Bill 942 will continue to generate tax revenue for the county, which Stevens and Mellen said has been designated for “one-time” expenses by the Board of Supervisors.
Those expenses will help pay for some capital improvement projects, including the Warhill artificial turf, Ambers House project, Jamestown Marina project and Jamestown Beach project.
Senate Bill 942 sets aside tax revenue generated by a $2 room tax from hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts and a 1-percent increase in state sales tax. Half of the money from the 1-percent increase is routed to the Tourism Council to fund destination marketing plans.
Overall, the sales tax revenue returned to James City County from SB 942 is estimated to be around $4.6 million, which is reflected in the proposed 2020 budget.
Capital improvement plan FY 2020
- Stormwater projects in Grove and Toano
- Church Lane stream restoration
- Ware Creek watershed projects
- Phase 4 and 5 of the James Terrace project
- Mill Creek watershed projects
- Financial software replacement
- Building maintenance
- Design for a new solid waste convenience center in Grove
- Design for a new fire station
- Fire apparatus replacements
- Improvements to the Jamestown Marina, Jamestown Beach and the Amblers House
- Improvements to Chickahominy Riverfront Park
- Land/facilities (from the additional SB 942 1 percent sales tax allocation — undesignated funds)
What happens from here?
- April 9, 5 p.m.: Public hearing and presentation on the budget at the Board of Supervisors meeting
- April 11, 6:30 p.m.: Neighborhood forum on the budget at the James City County Recreation Center
- May 14: Adoption of the fiscal year 2020 budget