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.

Celebrate the Small Stuff

victory

Just about everyone in Suffolk agrees on one thing: City Council does NOT listen to the people. However, City Council is listening to us! True, the budget still includes a property tax increase, and a water/sewer fee increase, however, two projects we spoke out against were deferred! There is even better evidence beyond that, proving Council & the City Manager are paying attention to US!

The biggest victory is, of course, the deferment of two projects. The “Central Library” plan, which was to replace Morgan Memorial, was slated to spend 1.5 million dollars acquiring land in the coming year, while the building itself was not slated to be built until 2019 at the earliest. That would have meant 5 years of that area of property being off the tax rolls, not to mention the businesses that would have been shut down during the acquisition. This was NOT a good idea in this economy. You complained, City Council listened. The project will likely come up again in the future, but for this coming year, it’s off the books.

The other project that was deferred was the Bennett’s Creek Rec Center. This particular rec center was to have been built a short 700 yards from the existing Creekside Rec Center. It would have cost the city 1.25 million dollars to renovate the building & surrounding land in the coming year and would have added over $400,000 a year in maintenance, upkeep, & salaries.

The deferment of these two projects will reduce the rate of spending growth by 2.7 million dollars! Everyone who called their councilman, or showed up to the March 18th budget meeting, you did that!

Another piece of evidence that the Suffolk HRTP has gotten the attention of City Council, was the numerous times that multiple councilmen & government representatives kept insisting that the budget that has been released is a line-item budget. Even better, the documents were released at the time the Work Session started, when it would normally take 24 hours or more to for the city to get them online.

The last bit of evidence that proves our voices are being heard; the city manager’s letter directly addressed the question of reducing the fleet, an item brought up by several of our members at the March 18th Budget Meeting. She of course was against such a measure, but the point is, she addressed it! Ms. Selena Cuffee-Glenn responded to us!

While there is still much work to be done in Suffolk, it is important for us to celebrate these small victories and realize that we ARE making a difference in Suffolk.

Now, back to work.

Where is Your Tax Money Going?

There will be a public hearing on the city’s proposed Capital Improvements Plan this coming Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at the regular City Council meeting. This is our chance to have a say in where the City of Suffolk is spending our tax dollars.

One project on this list that likely needs to be jettisoned is the Suffolk Seaboard Trail. This is a proposed 11 mile hiking/biking trail following the path of the former railway line. While it sounds like a good idea, this project requires the city to put up $190,000 dollars in order to get a $747,000 grant from Virginia Department of Transportation. Yes, the same DOT that is having trouble filling potholes & repairing roads throughout the state is looking to send $747,000 to pave over an old rail line. Oh, and don’t forget – this project will add $25,000 to the city’s budget each year for upkeep and maintenance to the Trail. Is this really a good use of both state and city funds in today’s economy?

Another potential money drain is the slated Bennett’s Creek Recreation Center. The city will acquire the Armory Building on Bennett’s Creek Park Road in a land swap with the Army. They want to dump 1.5 MILLION dollars into the building to convert it into a rec center, which will add close to HALF A MILLION dollars to the city budget EVERY YEAR in staffing, upkeep, & maintenance. We all know that amount will only increase each year. What’s worse, this proposed rec center is only a hop, skip, & jump away from a current rec center! Creekside Rec Center, located in Creekside Elementary, is right on the corner of Bennett’s Creek Park Road. Here’s a map of the city’s current rec centers, with the proposed location being the red balloon:

So, just to get the straight, we have firefighters & police officers who haven’t seen a decent raise in years. We’ve got teacher who also haven’t had a decent raise, and a school system that is currently rationing paper and other supplies. But, oh, let’s dump 1.5 million this year and add half a million to the budget yearly for a rec center, that will be located right down the road from a current rec center, and up the road from a city park. Because that’s a brilliant use of taxpayer dollars right there, isn’t it?

This is just the start. Read through the plan yourself. Bring your findings to our next meeting, Feb 19, 2013. We’d love to hear what our members spot that we may have missed.