City levy will remain the same
By ANDREA FURLONG
Williamsburg residents will pay more in property taxes for fiscal year 2011, despite the city council’s decision to maintain the city’s levy of $12.25 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
The property tax increase reflects an increase in the state rollback from 45 percent to 46.9 percent.
Under last year’s rollback, taxes on a $100,000 Williamsburg home were $558.47. In fiscal year 2011, taxes on a $100,000 Williamsburg house will be approximately $574.53 — over $15 more than last year.
City clerk Jenifer Mein told council members at a meeting Jan. 25, that due to the increased rollback, the city would have to decrease its tax levy to $11.99 in order for taxpayers to pay roughly the same amount of city property taxes they did last year. However, a tax levy of $11.99 would leave the city with an ending fund balance equivalent to 14 percent of the next fiscal year’s expenditures. Mein pointed out the city tries to end with an ending fund balance of at least 25 percent.
“My concern is June 30 comes, you have July, August, September, you get your first payment of taxes in October, and you have a lot of expenditures coming out right away,” Mein said.
Mayor Frank Murphy said he believed the city could maintain its current tax levy and still be competitive with other cities.
“I’m reluctant to go lower than that $12.25. As I look at surrounding cities, this city has the lowest tax rate of any city this size,” he said.
Council member Adam Grier disagreed, contending that if the city can get by with a lower levy, it should.
“I think it would send a strong message to the community that we’re doing everything we possibly can to watch our spending by showing that slight decrease in the levy,” Grier said.
Council members verbally consented 4-1, with Grier in opposition, to keep the city tax levy at $12.25 of $1,000 of assessed valuation for fiscal year 2011. Due to an increase in residential property value along with the rollback increase, the city expects to receive $16,000 more of revenue than last year under the same levy. Council member Theresa Phillips requested Mein put the $16,000 toward next fiscal year’s ending fund balance.
Representatives of the Williamsburg Child Development Center asked the council for assistance in pushing general contractor Prostruct to finish construction of the center. Kidz on the Ridge co-directors Dee Culp and Jennifer Lane said they are losing money to families whose children they could accommodate if the center were finished.
“I have a waiting list of eight children with paid deposits waiting to get into the center and I turn people down daily, so we’re losing income on a weekly basis,” Culp said.
Lane noted her temporary license to operate out of Williamsburg church will expire in March, leaving her without a space to care for the children of 12 different families if the building isn’t finished by then.
“They give us a (substantial completion) date, but it doesn’t really mean anything. They give us a date just to satisfy us because we’re there at the meeting but by the time you go back (to the site) and see what they’re doing that week, you know they’re not going to make that date,” Lane said.
Tim McMullin, president of the center’s executive building committee, shared Lane’s frustration.
“We’re finding each date we’re given keeps getting pushed back. We’re not seeing the progress and intention we need to finish this project out,” he said. McMullin added the last substantial completion date Prostruct proposed was Feb. 21, but he foresees the site being ready around March 31 at the very earliest.
City attorney Eric Tindal said he isn’t sure what more the city can do to pressure IMT Bonding, the bonding company of the original contractor, to finish the building, which was supposed to be completed in October of 2009.
“The contract has wayward language in it that limits it to the liquidated damages. I think it’s going to be hard to go back in and get damages above and beyond the liquidated damages, unless I can somehow show it was unanticipated by the agreement,” Tindal said.
The city has been collecting $100 of liquidated damages per day since mid-October, when the building was contractually obligated to be completed. Tindal said he believed it would take a lawsuit to recover anything beyond the liquidated damages agreed to in the contract.
“It would be some pretty serious litigation before it’s all said and done,” he said.
Tindal said since the liquidated damages are not enough of a financial incentive for IMT to finish the building, the only other option might be to emphasize the effect the project might bear on IMT’s reputation.
“I don’t know. IMT’s a big company. We’re a small community. You might have to think outside the box,” he said.
• The council approved allowing Piper Jaffray to submit a sealed bid for the purchase of bonds that will be sold at competitive sale for the library project.
• The council approved a financial services advisory agreement with Piper Jaffray.
The next city council meeting will be held Monday, Feb. 8, at 7:30 p.m.
UPDATED February 3, 2010 11:11 AM