Watch out for even higher taxesPublished 9:15pm Saturday, May 4, 2013
To the editor:
Suffolk City Council just passed a budget that spends nearly $5,400 per capita. That is significant, since the cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Newport News and Hampton all manage to operate for around $4,000 per capita.
You would think Suffolk would have the best of everything with all the extra spending. Sadly with the exception of the highest paid per capita city manager, we do not.
I applaud the three councilmen who attempted to find some middle ground with the School Board and fund much-needed replacements for obsolete equipment.
I noticed the other five members of Council claimed to support education during last year’s elections. Sadly their actions show a different picture. While this year’s budget increased total education expenditures, it was the first time this has been true in five years.
The more experienced council members — or “The Team” as they like to call themselves — have decreased education spending for the previous four years by so much that we are now spending less than we did in 2008.
Public utilities are also an issue. It may surprise many of you to know that Suffolk budgeted $6 million to pay the city of Portsmouth for water. It seems wrong to pay so much for water coming from local reservoirs, when the streams and creeks of Suffolk provide that water.
Also wrong is the fact that while Portsmouth is assessed at approximately $4,400 per acre of Lake Meade, the city assessed Suffolk-owned Savage Pond, which feeds into Lake Meade, at nearly $18,000 per acre.
This year’s budget increased the city’s debt by $28 million. The city has projected debt payments to exceed $750 million in principle and interest. To put that in perspective, this year’s total budget was only $514 million. Why are we incurring even more debt if we are spending so much more per capita that our sister cities?
The elephant in the room is uncontrolled growth, growth that profits developers and certain members of City Council at the expense of citizens of Suffolk. Overcrowded schools continue to be underfunded. Public works projects that would have provided water with a profit for Suffolk indefinitely went unfunded.
Suffolk’s debt continues to grow to meet the city government’s outsized image of itself.
The city claims it has the second-lowest tax rate in the region. This claim is only true if you ignore the Route 17 Special Taxing District rate of $1.22.
My neighbors in Holland should be warned: With all the uncontrolled growth planned by the mayor and her fellow real-estate investing councilmen, we will soon need a Route 58 Special Taxing District to pay for it.