The Virginia Municipal League awarded the City of Williamsburg with the 2022 Innovation Award in the category of Risk Management for its Reserve Protection budget strategy through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The statewide competition recognizes innovative problem-solving, excellence in management, citizen participation, and improved services to citizens.
To combat the risk of outside circumstances negatively affecting the financial health of the City's tourism-based economy, the City maintains an extremely high policy threshold for reserve funds, requiring an equivalent of 35% of last year's revenues to be held in an operating reserve. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit City staff recognized early that the pandemic would be a long-term emergency that required a different budget management strategy: Instead of using reserve funds, the City dedicated any additional funds that could possibly be used to make up for the shortfalls. This strategy allowed the City to tap into the reserves occasionally without dipping below the 35% threshold.
"We are extremely proud to receive this honor from the Virginia Municipal League," City Manager Andrew O. Trivette said. "Though it would have been easy to tap into our very healthy reserve in the early days of the pandemic, our staff instead planned for the future. We developed and executed a three-year strategy that focused on protecting the reserve, which allowed us to address the immediate needs of the pandemic while maintaining our ability to fight the next emergency with a robust reserve still intact."
This is the second consecutive year the City has won an Innovation Award. The City won the award in the same category last year for its drive-thru voting system.
"The proof is in the numbers, and the City of Williamsburg did a fantastic job proving they could manage risk during one of the riskiest financial periods in recent memory. The City's fiscal discipline and foresight is commendable," the VML judges wrote.
VML received nearly 80 entries, from which judges selected one winner in each of the eight categories. One of the category winners will be chosen to receive the President's Award, which will be announced at VML's annual conference on Oct. 3.
Read the full news release from the Virginia Municipal League.