Budget changes were the subject of debate at a city council meeting April 12. The budget adoption is currently scheduled for May 10, but proposed changes including an increase on cigarette taxes were brought to the fore of the discussion.
Members of the community spoke for and against the proposed cigarette tax during a budget public hearing. City Council member Doug Pons acknowledged the potential danger a tax increase could have on local businesses.
“As a non-smoker, it is easy for me to say tax cigarettes but the unintended consequence is that business may leave the city,” Pons said. “When cigarette tax goes up, visits to stores go down and so does spending on other things.”
Mayor Clyde Haulman stressed that the tax increase needed to be further scrutinized before making a final decision next month.
“Those are taxes that we need to think about very critically before moving forward,” Haulman said.
While the Council will not decide on a finalized budget until May 10, a number of measures passed including an amendment to the tour guide license requirements that would allow students 16 and older to work as tour guides in Colonial Williamsburg if certain requirements are met.
“We are just providing flexibility so that more well qualified tour guide candidates can have access to these jobs,” Vice Mayor Paul Freiling ’83 said.
The Council agreed to the reauthorization of the five-year agreement between James City County and the City of Williamsburg, which allows Williamsburg city residents to go to James City County Schools. The agreement experienced a few minor changes before consensus to renew the contract for the next five years was reached.
“The city gets a benefit because our children are in a school system that provides a much wider range of curriculum options and opportunities and the county gets a benefit because they have another 10 percent of children in the system,” Haulman said.
The Council passed a proposed resolution committing the City to participation in a study focusing on the consolidation of regional sanitary sewer assets. The Hampton Roads Sanitation District will conduct the study at their expense. Even though there will a cost to the city in terms of time cost with the city staff, the council thought the study would be worth that cost.
An annual asphalt overlay schedule was passed and will be conducted over the coming year.
In addition, an office space in the transportation center changed from open space to an office for taxi companies.