VA State Legislators Tell City Council to Get in Line

“If you want to have the state involved … there’s a lot of projects that are in front of it,” Delegate Chris Jones R-76 said. “You have to get in line, and it has to be a priority.”

via Legislators discuss library | The Suffolk News-Herald.

Last year, I worked with the Suffolk Chapter of the Hampton Roads Tea Party, and we got the city to postpone the library project, a replacement of Morgan Memorial Library, a perfectly fine library near the heart of downtown.  They had planned to spend 1.5 million dollars buying up the land, for a library they were not projecting to build until sometime after 2019.  It seemed a ridiculous waste of money considering they were already planning to raise taxes, and did NOT have the full 9 million extra the school system was requesting.  So City Council was forced to defer the project.

This year, they’ve partnered with Paul De Camp Community College for 2 reasons.  First, to try to get grant money from the state to fund the project. Second, to make the Tea Party types shut up about it, because how could we possibly be against education?  /eyeroll

The new library will be on the corner of Lee & West Washington, where there are several houses & business right now, so that land would have to bought and taken off the tax rolls.  Also, it will cost $22 MILLION dollars!  That’s twice the cost of the new city hall!

Our illustrious mayor, Ms. Linda Johnson, has said in the past that she really wants this library project to go forward. She honestly believes that if we have a spiffy new library across from our spiffy new City Hall, that people will just love to hang out there.  Because, oh yes – when I think of where I want to go hang out and relax, I think City Hall.  /eyeroll   No, I am not joking. She actually said that.  You’d have to go through the archives of the City Council meeting discussing the project, but it’s there.

So the Council really wants this project, but they know they will face resistance again.  They joined up with PDCCC to try to circumvent the resistance by getting state money.  However, state legislators are telling them that the money won’t come from the state anytime soon.  LOL!

Dear citizens of Suffolk, be prepared, and start fighting this NOW!  Go to council meetings and speak up during the Non-Agenda Speakers time!  Start telling the council NOW that this project needs to stop, the city does not have the money, and the legislators have made it clear that the money won’t be coming from the state anytime soon.

Budget Battle Starts Today!

Money-01The Budget Battle starts today!!! At the City Council Retreat (currently going on right now at the Health & Human Services building) The council is discussing things that will impact the budget in big ways. If you have a few free moments today and tomorrow, please pop over there and make sure they know we are watching!

Here is the agenda:
Thursday

8:30 to 9 a.m. — Breakfast
9 to 9:30 a.m. — Welcome, retreat agenda review, video
9:30 to 10:45 a.m. — Economic development accomplishments, public safety accomplishments, financial accomplishments
10:45 to 11 a.m. — Council-city manager form of government
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Lunch break
2 to 2:30 p.m. — Assessor update
2:30 to 3:45 p.m. — Capital Improvements Plan: Neighborhood, water and transportation projects
3:45 to 4 p.m. — Break
4 to 5 p.m. — Quality of life: Parks, Social Services and libraries

Friday

8:30 to 9 a.m. — Breakfast
9 to 10 a.m. — Southeastern Public Service Authority
10 to 10:15 a.m. — Break
10:15 to 10:45 a.m. — Goals and objectives
10:45 to 11:45 a.m. — Employee health, wellness and benefits
11:45 a.m. to noon — Break
Noon to 12:45 p.m. — Working lunch: Comprehensive plan
12:45 to 1:15 p.m. — Recap and wrap-up

City to add $57 Million Dollars in NEW debt

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The City Council on Wednesday gave preliminary authorization to $57 million in new debt and set a public hearing for July 17 to get input on the bond sales.

The money will finance a variety of upcoming capital projects, including utility improvements and another round of funding for Pioneer Elementary School, currently under construction off Holland Road. (via Suffolk News Herald)

My question is: Does this mean that City Council authorized spending on these projects without having the money? It appears so, I haven’t been able to get a straight answer on that question yet.

I did contact the budget office to get more information, and was told that the issuance of bonds is something they do every year, and it’s like getting a loan for a mortgage. Thing is, most people aren’t refinancing their home every year.

More than just property taxes are going up!

tellcouncilno

The budget presented to City Council at their last Work Session not only raises our real estate property taxes, it will also increase our HRUBS bills by 10%!

The city has decided to pay for the water projects in the CIP by raising the fees on your water & sewer, this way they can claim to keep property tax low, but still get more money from the citizens. The water usage fee will increase 9.9%, while the sewer fee will increase 8.8%, because of other facets of the HRUBS bill, it means roughly a 10% increase. This means if you have a water bill that averages about $220 every two months, this increase will cost you another $22 every two months. That’s $130 extra a year.

Real Estate Property Tax is determined by the value of your property. This year’s budget will increase your property tax by $0.06. For every $100 dollars of value, you are currently paying $0.97. This year’s budget raises that rate to $1.03. So if your home is currently assessed at $175,000, your new tax bill would be $1,802.05 – about $105 more than last year. Keep in mind, the more money the city says your property is worth, the more money they can collect from you in taxes on it. This is why there are a few developers and a hotel currently bringing a lawsuit against the city for over-inflating their property tax assessments for the last several years. By the way, this property tax increase will affect renters too. When your landlord’s tax bill for the property you are renting increases, where do you think he will get the money for to pay it? Our co-chairman, Janet, would like to encourage everyone to take a good look at their current assessment. Is there any way you could sell your property at that price today? If not, call the assessor’s office and ask to have your assessment adjusted.

City Council has proven that they are listening to us! We can not back down now! All of us, when faced with the prospect of earning less money this year than last, are forced to cut our budgets & make do with less. Yet when the city is faced with less money, they raise our taxes and keep right on spending. It’s time for City Council to tighten the city’s financial belt and make some tough choices.

Call your councilman. Let him know that this water/sewer fee increase is an outrageous tax on the hardworking people of Suffolk. Tell them the 6 cent increase in property taxes is unacceptable in today’s economy. But most importantly, show up to the next council meeting, April 17, 2013 at 7pm at City Hall. Get there early, bring signs. Be prepared to stay for the long haul. We must make our voices the loudest in the room in order to make sure that the City Council, the City Manager, and even the School Board hear our message.