The economic downturn brought about by the coronavirus continues to affect businesses, jobs, livelihoods.
Local governments also are feeling the pinch, as most all are finding themselves going back to the drawing board and adjusting their budgets.
The James City County Board of Supervisors met Tuesday and discussed changes to the county’s proposed budget.
Sharon Day, director of financial management services, proposed potential changes to the budget that would help mitigate impacts from the coronavirus pandemic.
She warned the budget might have to be adjusted in the future.
The county’s current proposed budget of $261.9 million is approximately $14 million greater than the previous year. If this budget is adopted, fiscal year 2022’s budget is projected to be $265 million, which is only approximately $3 million more than in 2021.
Day said revenue collection is difficult for the county to predict currently because the data lags by a couple of months. She did note the county’s largest source of revenue is from real estate and personal property taxes which are set to be due on June 5.
Where the county expects to see a large hit in revenue, at approximately $10.5 million, is through meal, tourism and hotel revenue, Day said. For the month of March, the state of Virginia saw a 78 percent decrease in travel spending which Day said would significantly impact these aspects of the county’s revenue.
Day said fortunately the county has been diligently tracking its emergency response costs since March 13, which will be useful when it comes to applying for state and federal assistance.
The county now has the option to raise the sales tax for cigarettes to up to 40 cents a pack, thanks to legislation passed by the Virginia General Assembly. If the county chooses to do so, it will generate about $900,000, Day said.
There are also proposed fee increases for parks and recreation, planning and building safety permits and storm water services.
If adopted, this new budget will cover fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1, and provide a plan for fiscal year 2022, which will begin the following July.
In the proposed budget for fiscal year 2021, which was released to the public on April 2, there is an additional funding of $2.3 million more than the previous year that has been allocated to the school operations budget.
The budget also includes the addition of four positions which will become effective on Jan. 1, 2021. These positions are principal planner, capital project coordinator, building security and custodial services superintendent, and one accounting technician for the new Department of Motor Vehicles Select in the Treasurer’s Office.
While health insurance costs have increased, the budget allows for additional funds provided by the county and the employees to cover the additional costs.
However, with the economic uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, the budget has revised its employee pay increase budget of $500,000 and moved those funds to a non-departmental account.
The new 1 percent additional sales tax in the Historic Triangle will also contribute $4.65 million which is budgeted to be used only for capital expenditures.
The budget also features $145 million for the county’s five-year capital improvement program, which focuses on school projects, such as adding a new pre-school, public safety projects, such as the addition of a new fire station, the development of Lower County Park and improvements to the James City County Marina.
“I think it’s good we are moving ahead with some of these capital improvement projects,” Supervisor John McGlennon said. “Because I know we had the cash situation to address some of these comfortably and it will help keep some businesses in operation and provide more work during a very lean time.”
For the first time, the board accepted public comment from residents through a recorded phone call options. Those who wanted to submit comments had to do so by noon on Tuesday.
The board only had one comment regarding the proposed budget from resident Jay Everson, who was concerned it was not reduced enough to prepare for potential revenue losses as a result of the coronavirus.
While no action was required of the board, there are work sessions currently scheduled for April 21 and April 28 at 4 p.m. The board is scheduled to adopt the amended budget at its meeting on May 12.