James City County Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael Hipple said the county needed to "stop kicking the can down the road" Thursday night and right its fiscal direction.
Hipple gave a vigorous defense of County Administrator Bryan Hill's proposal to hike the tax rate by 8.2 cents in order to address five strategic initiatives: stormwater, school infrastructure, cleaning the county, economic development and replenishing debt service reserves.
"I ‘ve had letters saying we’re going to vote you out," Hipple said. "I ran when I ran. I’m going to do the best thing for all the citizens in James City County. I didn’t say I was going to do the best for this one person, or this one type."
He said when Hill initially told him a tax increase would be necessary to fund the initiatives he was in disbelief. "I told him to go back and look some and see what could be cut." In time, Hipple said, Hill had looked as far as he could.
"I believe in this man right here, I believed in him the minute I saw him," Hipple said, pointing at Hill. "There’s issues in this county and there’s things that needs to be done."
Hipple, who was elected to the board in 2013, said he felt the initiatives outlined by Hill were crucial after doing some research.
"Last year I voted on the budget to hold it where it was, I needed more time to see what actually was going on in James City County, each component of this is where we’re failing."
In a nod to critics of the plan, who argued the county has spent too much money on land preservation, Hill said he would ask the Board of Supervisors to consider suspending green space initiatives, purchase development rights programs to assure the public additional funding for projects would not be used in the future.
Hill said there was no funding programmed for future projects.
Les Skelly, one of the vocal opponents of the tax increase, said he was pleased to hear Hill would ask for the purchase program to end, but that wouldn't capture his support of the budget proposal.
"I would be more sympathetic to their initiatives. I don’t support the tax increase because of the way they're spending on unecessary programs."
Hill also said he would recommend the board lower the tax rate, if passed, next year, if forthcoming county assessments create growth in revenue.
Thursday night's forum was fourth individual budget talk held by the Board of Supervisors. The final one will be held next Thursday at the James City County Recreation Center by Board Vice Chairman Kevin Onizuk.