City to discuss tourism development fund, capital projects at retreat

tjefferson@vagazette.com

City council will meet on Saturday to discuss the tourism development fund, capital improvement projects and to set future priorities, during its annual retreat.

“The retreat is a chance for city staff and council members to get together,” council member Benny Zhang said. “It will also set a framework for our budget process.”

The tourism development fund was first proposed by city manager Marvin Collins at last year’s city council retreat in January.

In August, council approved the tourism development fund with a 3-1 vote. Zhang was the lone dissenter. Mayor Paul Freiling, who works at Colonial Williamsburg which will be affected by all three taxes, recused himself.

The city estimates the additional taxes could raise up to $4.5 million in revenue in their first year and view the fund as a chance to bring what Collins has called a generational change to the city's tourism market by using the money to pay for tourism-based projects.

The money for the fund comes from increasing the meal tax to 6.5 percent, room tax to 8 percent and adding an admissions tax of 3.5 percent.

In addition to the current five percent room tax, hotels and motels have been charging a $2 per-night room fee. The increase in room tax will eliminate the $2 per-night charge which patrons have paid since 2006.

A five-person group appointed by city council would vet projects to be paid for with development fund money. Three members would come from tourism-related fields and the other two would be appointed at-large.

There is no set list of projects yet, only suggestions. Freiling said the fund could help spur private investment in projects that the city could also help finance.

The city will start collecting taxes under their new rates in July 2018.

Capital projects

The city will also discuss the city’s capital projects at Saturday’s retreat.

The city places construction projects and property purchases exceeding $20,000 and any major study with a total cost of $10,000 with a lifespan of five or more years on its capital budget, rather than in its annual operating budget.

The fire station is the city’s top priority this year. The city plans to build the fire station starting in 2019 and work would last until 2021.

The city has already secured $13 million in bonds to replace an existing fire station that chief Pat Dent has said is too small for the fire department’s existing needs.

Firefighters are now based in the 18,053-square-foot building along Armistead Avenue. The new building should be closer to 34,459 square feet, according to architect GuernseyTingle.

The city’s capital projects list includes $21 million in spending this fiscal year. The 2018 fiscal year ends June 30.

Most of the budgeted money went toward public work projects, 10 total costing $8 million. The city plans to spend $5 million as part of the Capital Landing Road redesign. By improving both the streetscape and utilities there, city staff hopes to spur private investment.

Some of the other capital improvements include the Ironbound Road reconstruction ($1.4 million), which is connected to the opening of James Blair Middle School and the city’s repaving program ($1 million).

City manager Marvin Collins declined to comment on any of the items on the agenda.

Want to attend?

When: 9 a.m. Jan. 27

Where: Stryker Center, 412 N Boundary St.

Want to view the full agenda?

Visit bit.ly/2FmrFV8

Jefferson can be reached by phone at 757-790-9313.

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