Chairman Michael Hipple asked his fellow Board of Supervisors members to look at what it will take to "right this ship" at a budget work session Monday afternoon, a week ahead of a scheduled vote on the budget.
Hipple said county supervisors should consider a plan that keeps James City on firm financial footing and addresses needs 5 years, 10 years, and even 30 years out.
While the county considers its first tax increase in nearly 20 years, an intense political debate is winding down as board members hold work sessions and one last forum this week before next Tuesday's vote.
Hipple said it was important to manage the county's budget like a business and set a plan for fiscal health that makes sure future needs "don't come as a surprise to the citizens."
Supervisor Mary Jones, who has said she will not favor any tax increase, praised County Administrator Bryan Hill for running a transparent process with the budget and for his work at town hall meetings outlining issues for the public.
"You’re very clear and articulate in your presentation of the information," Jones said.
At Monday's work session county supervisors said little but were briefed on staff on some of the funding that would be used if the 8.2 cent real estate tax hike went through, providing some $9 million in additional revenues to the county for stormwater management, replenishing debt service reserves, school bus replacement and refurbishing of the roof at Clara Byrd Baker Elementary, and economic development.
Fran Geissler, director of stormwater management for the county, told board members that many homeowner associations were unaware of requirements for stormwater mitigation.
"We have always assumed that neighborhoods with HOAs are capable and able and have signed a maintenance agreement and are maintainig their system," Geissler said. But a recent stormwater committee report found in many cases mitigation plans had been neglected or disbanded. Geissler said that if the county is able to fund improvements through contractual agreements with private neighborhoods a stormwater advisory committee would review each proposal, and funds would likely go out in early 2016.
Jim Kennedy, who sits on the board, said he would like to see a clearer policy implemented for how each request would be made and evaluated and how ultimately plans for maintenance and repairs would be implemented.
"The policy needs a lot more massaging," Kennedy said. Kennedy asked whether or not the county assisting with immediate needs would make it responsible for future problems that arise.
"There’s some challenges there," Kennedy said. "Does that make us responsible for it in the future as well?"
A final work session is scheduled for Wednesday at the James City County Government Center. The meeting will start at 4 p.m. and is open to the public. In addition, Board Vice Chairman Kevin Onizuk will host a public forum on the budget on Thursday at the James City County Recreation Center which will begin at 6:30 p.m.