James City Board of Supervisors approves fiscal year 2020 budget

Staff writer

Another budget is in the books for James City County. The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a $247 million budget for the 2020 fiscal year on Tuesday.

The culmination of a relatively straightforward budget process that kicked off in March, the budget is a 3.5% decrease compared to the current FY2019 budget and doesn’t increase taxes, though some fee increases are included. The FY2020 budget takes effect July 1.

Without much discussion, the board voted to approve the budget.

“I think the process itself went very well. We had good opportunities for feedback from citizens and great opportunities to ask any questions we may have had,” Supervisor John McGlennon said.

County residents will continue to pay the same amount of real estate and personal property taxes, as the rates stay level at 84 cents per $100 of assessed value and $4 per $100 of assessed value, respectively.

The county expects to collect $211.8 million in revenue, which is $5.9 million (about 3%) more than the previous budget’s general fund.

About $137 million of that would be in general property taxes. FY2020’s general property tax revenue is expected to be a $3.8 million increase compared to the previous year. FY2020 isn’t a reassessment year.

That increase is the expected result of anticipated growth in the county, as well as a redoubled effort by the treasurer’s office to collect delinquent taxes.

Difficulty in the budget process was centered on the county’s decision to levy a $7 per month fee for curbside recycling.

That decision came as a result of market pressures created by a Chinese ban on importing American recyclables. In FY2020, the county expects to pay $1.8 million for curbside recycling. In the previous budget, there was just $525,767 allocated for the service. Since the county wants to maintain level funding on its end, the remainder gets passed on to residents.

Supervisors and county staff spent several meetings working out the logistics of a fee-based recycling program, and occasionally discussed absorbing the increased cost in the budget. Ultimately, supervisors approved a separate resolution to enact the fee Tuesday.

There will also be a 13.5% increase for water and sewer fees, which are part of a five-year increase plan in preparation for 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.

Another topic that generated interest this budget cycle was funding for the county’s land preservation programs.

Though in recent months supervisors seemed supportive of some manner of increased funding for existing land preservation programs, and county residents came out in support of it during the public hearing in April, the budget ultimately did not feature any earmarked funds for land preservation programs.

However, county staff have noted the $1.3 million allocated to land and facilities purchases could be used for land preservation purposes.

James City County expects slightly more revenue from Senate Bill 942, which created a 1% sales tax surcharge and redirected an existing $2 transient occupancy tax in 2018. The county, as well as Williamsburg and York County, splits total revenue 50-50 with the Tourism Council, a regional tourism marketing entity.

The county expects $5 million in FY2020, a slight increase from the $4.9 million expected in FY2019. Those funds are earmarked for non-reoccurring expenses such as 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 budget.

“I don’t quite know where we would be if we did not have the SB 942 fund this year. It’s helping us tremendously take care of some things we need to take care of,” Supervisor Ruth Larson said.

The budget will provide $110.5 million to the Williamsburg-James City County School Division — 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.

The county’s other capital projects include improvements to James City County Marina ($1.7 million) and Amblers House ($185,100). There’s also funding for design work for the county’s new fire station ($1.4 million) and for design work on a new convenience center in Grove ($146,000). The fire station’s design would take place in FY2020, with construction the following year. The fire station would be located on property next to the county’s police station in Lightfoot.

The county will add a handful of new staff positions, most notably six firefighters and three police officers. These public safety hires come as part of a multi-year plan to increase public safety resources in response to increased service demand. County employees are slated for 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.

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

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