Colonial Williamsburg asking for nearly $7M tax relief

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) – In an unprecedented move, the president of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is asking for a total of nearly $7 million tax relief from three municipalities.

The request comes as the foundation faces financial turmoil. Last week, 10 On Your Side confirmed Colonial Williamsburg would undergo layoffs and outsourcing of four departments. In another cost saving measure, the Kimball Theatre is scheduled to close this week.

Gallery: Colonial Williamsburg seeks tax relief

Colonial Williamsburg is in the midst of a fight to save its future.

“I think it’s very unfortunate, because this certainly is a very historic area and it should be maintained,” Susan Lane said. She was visiting from Georgia.

The foundation’s president is asking the City of Williamsburg, York County and James City County to wave certain taxes for three years and temporarily stop any new taxes.

Read: Letter to Williamsburg city manager

It’s a move visitors support.

“Yes they need it. Other cities should help because it brings in business for them,” Kathy Hulsey who was also visiting from Georgia said.

“I think if that helps salvage whatever they need to salvage so it can continue, I would agree with that,” Lane said.

Bryan Hill, the County Administrator in James City County told 10 On Your Side’s Brandi Cummings he received the letter on Friday and plans to meet the board of supervisors next week.

“In these times, I do understand why it would be made as a request,” he said.

But Hill explained that getting approval requires support from state lawmakers.

“A county cannot remove or amend taxes that are due to that county. You have to get General Assembly approval.”

Document: Colonial Williamsburg’s local tax impact

The financial crisis plaguing Colonial Williamsburg dates back several years.

In 2014, the foundation lost $62 million — equaling a loss of $175,000 every day.

The foundation president explained in his letter, approval of the request is critical to the success of Colonial Williamsburg.

“I think it would be very unfortunate for the United States not to be able to have this available for people to come and see and view our history,” Lane said.

Hill said during his meeting with the James City County Board of supervisors next week, he plans to present four options to help the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Once the board makes a decision on what it will do, we’ll pass it on to you.

Although not available for an on-camera interview, WAVY News received the following statements for our story:

As you can imagine, this is a complex issue which would greatly impact the City’s budget (FY’18’s budget was approved in May and commenced July 1).  City staff is currently reviewing the request and its ramifications after which it will be presented to Council for discussion.  It will also be important to know the particulars of Colonial Williamsburg’s strategic, comprehensive plan to regain financial health.”

Barbara Ramsey, Williamsburg City Council Member

City staff is presently evaluating the legalities and impact of CWF’s request for tax relief on our budget. There is a fine line in considering the city’s best interests for our residents and the financial relief of the city’s second largest employer. I look forward to receiving staff’s recommendation and citizen guidance on this matter.”

Benming Zhang, Williamsburg City Council Member

As an employee of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the Foundation’s request.  As this request is considered by City Council, I will not be participating in the discussion.  If it ever comes to a vote, I will abstain from that, as well.”

Paul Freiling, Mayor, City of Williamsburg

Stay with WAVY.com for developments.