James City County is facing a bleak fiscal future and will be holding public meetings in December to share the grim news with residents and give them a chance to share their thoughts.
“Even though we’ve already reduced spending and cut some services, the tougher years are ahead,” says County Administrator Sandy Wanner. “There is no doubt in my mind that county citizens will see services they have enjoyed over the years reduced or eliminated.” The county estimates a shortfall of $5-6 million in revenues for FY2011-2012 which it will have to compensate for through service and program cuts, increasing revenues, or some combination of these options.
The county’s FY2010 budget required cuts in services due to a $3 million revenue shortfall, and the fiscal climate when the budget was made was one of the worst Wanner had seen in decades. The county increased a few fees, reduced leaf collection, eliminated mosquito control, eliminated 34 open positions, increased insurance premiums for county employees, reduced funding for nonprofit organizations and reduced funding for the school system.
There’s no fat left to trim and tough decisions will be made as far as possible reductions and eliminations, Wanner says. The state will likely have bad news to share when the governor makes his budget address in January, and “when the state is in difficult straights that just rolls downhill” and hits local economies, Wanner says.
The decision to hold public meetings in every district is a first for the county, he says, but the county wants residents to know exactly what’s ahead. Wanner will be giving presentations on the current fiscal situation at each meeting, as well as possible options for balancing the budget. “We will be making very serious decisions, and we want to get feedback from residents on what’s important to them, and what’s not,” he said.
Residents will be given cards to fill out, which will give Wanner and supervisors an idea about how citizens feel about various options.
A pre-budget hearing is scheduled during the January 12 supervisors meeting, and supervisors will meet in late January for their annual budget retreat.