Williamsburg-James City County renew schools partnership

Both the Williamsburg City Council and James City County’s Board of Supervisors have reaffirmed a contract that keeps Williamsburg-James City County Schools a joint division.

The contract surfaces for authorization every five years; the current deal is set to expire June 30.

It outlines the financial responsibility of each locality and how funding works for the operational budget and for capital improvements within the division. It also designates a school board, with two appointed members from city and five elected from the county, to preside over the division.

“I think ultimately (the joint division) is to the benefit of the city and the county,” county supervisors chairman Kevin Onizuk (Jamestown) said. “I am hopeful that it is a positive relationship that can continue for years to come.”

The city contributes about 10 percent of the division’s local funding — about $9 million of the $99 million local allotment in the School Board approved fiscal year 2018 budget. The rest falls to the county.

Williamsburg’s City Council confirmed the partnership first with 5-0 vote on April 13. The supervisors signed on unanimously at their Tuesday night meeting.

Little changed between the 2012-17 contract and the one both entities reauthorized through 2022. Dates were adjusted to reflect the new timeline, and a clarification made in the section detailing the city’s financial responsibly.

Williamsburg’s contribution, as a percent of total schools operating costs, is determined by the percent of students living within city limits multiplied by 1.14. For the 2018 School Board approved budget, it was 9.46 percent.

“Operational costs are derived by applying the multiplier to a three-year average. Any sudden increase or decrease for either jurisdiction is smoothed over a three-year period,” city manager Marvin Collins said April 13. “The city used to pay a higher multiplier when the county was a more rural school system and the city was the more-funded school system.”

At the supervisors’ meeting, Ruth Larson (Berkeley) said some citizens had reached out, concerned about the county’s representation on the school board. The five county members represent each of the county’s five voting districts.

“I have had a couple of phone calls from James City County citizens regarding representation on the school board, and the way that the contract works out,” Larson said. “I don’t think that it would be appropriate to stop this contract at this juncture but I do think it is something that we need to be open to discuss in the future, just keeping our eyes on where the population goes and that type of thing.”

Between 2010 and 2016, James City County’s population grew by 9.9 percent, Williamsburg expanded by 9.7 percent, according to a January report by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service Demographics Research Group.

“I’ve received some of the same concerns and would share some of the same concerns about equal representation, student per student, citizen per citizen between the city and the county and it’s something we certainly should discuss as a future board,” Onizuk said.

The new contract takes effect July 1 of this year, and expires June 30, 2022.

Staff Writer Wesley Wright contributed to this report.

Williams can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

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