Hipple hosts community budget meeting

A collection of James City County residents shuffled into a community room in the county Rec Center Monday night, prepared to discuss the county’s fiscal year 2018 budget.

It was the fourth of five public meetings, hosted by each county Board of Supervisors member. Monday night was Powhatan representative Michael Hipple’s turn. County administrator Bryan Hill joined him.

About 15 residents joined county and schools staff and school board members Monday. Supervisors Ruth Larson (Berkeley) and John McGlennon (Roberts) also attended.

Revealed March 31, the county’s proposed 2018 budget calls for a bump in sewer and water rates, but holds steady real estate and personal property tax rates — something Hill was quick to mention.

“This is a no tax-increase budget,” Hill said. “We’re doing what we can with what we have.”

Paid quarterly, residents will see their water rate increase from $8.19 to $9.30 and their sewer rate bump to $5.89, a 12-cent change. Hill mentioned the extra $225,000 allotted for public safety services including fire, police, EMS and animal control.

“Everyone who comes to us needs something,” Hipple said. “And all of it’s important; it’s what makes this community great.”

Hipple acknowledged that though $2.1 million of the county’s $2.8 million increase is going to Williamsburg-James City County Schools, that funding doesn’t match their request — it’s about $650,000 short. Hill said 54 percent of the budget goes to the schools.

“Basically 54 percent of the budget you don’t have control over,” JCC resident Gail Miller said. “You’re doing an outstanding job, it’s like we put you in a straitjacket and you’re pulling rabbits out of your hat.”

Miller followed up with concern that taxes would be necessary in the near future to make up for cost increases around the county. This is already the third year water and sewer rates have increased, she pointed out.

But Hill said no, with his plan to continually pay down the county’s debt tax increases may not be not be required. He aims to drop it to $100 million by 2023, down from $234 million in 2014.

David Jarmin, who has attended all four budget meetings and plans to be at Sue Sadler’s (Stonehouse) on Wednesday, questioned whether the debt capacity the county is building, which enables the county to borrow more money, would just have to go to a water desalinization plant.

With James City County’s growth, administrators are starting to look into additional water sources ahead of 2027, the end of the county’s current state Department of Environmental Quality ground water permit. He quizzed Hill and Hipple on what their long-range plans are.

“I was just curious about the process and the timing and how we’re going to get from where we are today to where we’re ultimately going to get,” Jarmin said. “The big uncertainty seems to be what’s the rate of residential population growth in this county because that tends to drive a lot of the costs.”

Hill replied that they haven’t finished collecting information and exploring all possible water sources, nothing is certain yet, he said.

Sue Sadler (Stonehouse) will finish the budget series 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the James City County Library. The county is slated to vote on the $228 million budget April 25.

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

Budget at a glance

2017 budget / 2018 proposed / change

Total spending: $225,076,270/ $228,221,821/ 1.4 percent

Real estate revenue: $95,000,000/ $96,500,000/ 1.6 percent

Personal property revenue: $20,893,500/ $21,950,000/ 5 percent

Total personnel: 730/ 742/ 1.6 percent

Copyright © 2019, The Virginia Gazette