Budget suggests city renovations

While many students look at the Williamsburg City Council’s proposed 2014 fiscal year budget with apathy, Mayor and professor of economics Clyde Haulman thinks students should be interested in some new projects the city is working on. Two aspects of the Capital Improvement Budget Haulman highlighted are the plans to replace the Stryker Building and reconstruction efforts on a section of Prince George Street.

Haulman explains the Stryker Building plans are essentially a library expansion that will create more space for meeting rooms and a small lecture hall. The Council will still have the current chamber in the building. Haulman estimates the construction will create three times more meeting space for students to use than what is currently offered in the Williamsburg Public Library.

Another capital improvement project outlined in the CIB is the reconstruction of Prince George Street from Armistead Avenue to Boundary Street. The plan calls for widening of the street and sidewalks, as well as reconstructing some of the buildings. Haulman believes the area will resemble the street in front of Aromas.

“For students, that could be a real positive change,” Haulman said.

The proposed revenues in the 2014 fiscal year budget are $51,587,832. This is an increase from the actual 2012 revenues of $45,739,010 and the estimated 2013 revenues of $45,863,038. The figures on the city’s proposed expenditures remain the same.

A majority of the revenue comes from taxes: 43 percent from local taxes and 38 percent from general property taxes.

“On the revenue side, there are no recommended increases in taxes and fees, except for a water rate increase of 5.5 percent,” City Manager Jackson Tuttle said.

For expenditures, 28.2 percent will be spent on public safety, 25.2 percent on education and 12.9 percent on community development. The rest will be spent on Parks and Recreation, general government administration, public works and other departments.

Tuttle claims overall spending will increase by approximately 3 percent, driven primarily by increased school costs for kindergarten through 12th grade. He says the budget was slightly affected by the purchase of the Hospitality House by the College of William and Mary. In response, the city reserved a revenue line of $250,000 for emergency services in order to balance the budget. Haulman estimates the hit to property taxes  as about $100,000.

Tuttle believes the budget conveys Williamsburg is moving out of the recession. The 2009 fiscal year budget exceeded $34 million, according to his online report. While the budget has continued to increase, it has not reached the 2009 spike in the last five years.

“We’re projecting for next year an increase in real estate values in both the residential side and the commercial side, so we are finally seeing some bounce back in the real estate market,” Tuttle said.

Haulman says, while there are signs of hope that Williamsburg is recovering — the leveling out of housing prices and meal taxes, in addition to growth in meal taxes ­­— he still foresees Williamsburg remaining in a recession for another two to five years. Haulman says the financial crisis of 2008 had a broader impact on the economy — one reason it has taken longer to return to normalcy.

“I think we’ve at least reached the bottom,” Haulman said. “There seem to be some signs that we’re coming out.”

The fiscal year begins July 1. The Council will vote to accept the proposed budget May 9.


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