No tax increases in James City County's proposed budget

Staff writer

The taxman won’t come looking for a little extra from residents in fiscal year 2020, according to James City County’s proposed budget released Friday.

County staff has pitched a $247 million budget for fiscal year 2020, which is a 3.5 percent decrease compared to the fiscal year 2019 adopted budget.

The smaller budget is due in large part to less spending on capital projects. There’s just $15.7 million proposed for the county’s capital projects fund in the upcoming budget, compared to the $30.4 million in the FY19 adopted budget, County Administrator Scott Stevens said.

The general fund is proposed to be $211.8 million, which is $5.9 million (about 3 percent) more than the previous budget’s general fund.

The county projects $211.8 million in taxes, fees and other revenue in FY20. About $137 million of that would be general property taxes — that’s real estate and personal property — and FY20’s general property tax revenue would be a $3.8 million increase compared to the previous year. FY20 isn’t a reassessment year, the proposed budget document states.

The bump in general property tax comes as a result of anticipated growth in the county and a redoubled effort by the treasurer’s office to secure delinquent collections.

James City’s cut of the SB 942 revenue -- its share of the 1-percent sales tax and $2 transient occupancy tax -- is estimated to total $5 million in FY20, which is a slight increase from the $4.9 million expected in FY19. SB 942 funds will go toward non-reoccurring expenses such as building maintenance, fence and gate replacement at the Williamsburg-James City County courthouse, police vehicle replacements and one-time costs for new officers, such as uniforms and equipment, among other expenses, according to the proposed budget.

County staff would keep real estate and personal property taxes level at 84 cents per $100 of assessed value and $4 per $100 of assessed value, respectively.

“Taxes are coming in as we thought they would,” Stevens said, adding that he didn’t anticipate a tax increase in the near future.

But while you won’t see a higher tax bill if staffs’ plan carries the day, there are several proposed fee increases, including a new curbside recycling fee.

Due to market pressures created by a Chinese ban on recyclables imported from the United States, the cost of offering curbside recycling has increased for James City. In FY20, the county expects to pay $1.8 million for curbside recycling. In the previous budget, there was just $525,767 allocated for the service. The county intends to maintain level funding on its end and will pass the remainder onto residents who participate in curbside recycling with a $7 monthly fee.

There’s also a 13.5 percent increase to water and sewer fees in the proposed budget. The bump is the last in a five-year rate plan, Stevens said.

The rate increases come in response to anticipated repair and maintenance costs and funding needs for long-term water supply solutions, according to the county’s 2015 water and sewer rate study.

For the average 5,000-gallons-per-month residential user, the increase translates into $3.10 more, from $38.95 per month to $42.05 per month, according to the budget.

The county plan calls for $110.5 million to be allocated to the Williamsburg-James City County School Division, which is a $2.4 million increase in operational funding.

The county would provide $2.9 million for schools’ capital projects, which includes $800,000 in design work for the expansion project at Warhill High School that includes a new auxiliary gym. Several elementary schools would also be slated for repairs.

Other projects on the county’s FY20 radar are improvements to James City County Marina ($1.7 million) and Amblers House ($185,100) as well as $1.3 million set aside for potential land and facilities purchases.

The land and facilities fund could be used to buy up land that would be a good location for a school, or go toward land preservation programs in which the board has previously expressed interest in, county finance director Sue Mellen said.

There’s also funding for design work to plan the county’s new fire station ($1.4 million) and for design work on a new convenience center in Grove ($146,000). The plan would be to fund construction of the convenience center in FY21, Mellen said.

The fire station’s design would take place in FY20, with construction the following year. The fire station would be located on property next to the county’s police station in Lightfoot.

On the personnel side of things, the county would add 14 new staff positions, including six firefighters and three police officers.

The new first responders come as part of a multi-year plan to add 18 firefighters to the county fire department to staff the soon-to-be-built fire station, and six police officers to man a new police zone. Public safety officials have said the extra hands are needed to keep up with service demands by residents.

County employees also would get a 3 percent raise on top of the final stage of a two-year $1.2 million plan to adjust the pay of almost 600 positions to have more competitive compensation.

James City FY20 budget calendar

  • Public hearing on budget 5 p.m. April 9 at the James City County Government Center Building F.
  • Board of Supervisors neighborhood forum on proposed budget 6:30 p.m. April 11 at James City County Recreation Center.
  • Board of Supervisors budget work session 4 p.m. April 23 at the James City County Government Center Building F.
  • Board of Supervisors budget work session 4 p.m. April 30 at the James City County Government Center Building F.
  • Budget adoption 5 p.m. May 14 at the James City County Government Center Building F.

The county budget can be viewed at jamescitycountyva.gov.

Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, jojacobs@vagazette.com, @jajacobs_

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