Council proposes #036;250M budget

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Taxpayers can heave a sigh of relief – sort of.

Seventy percent of property owners will find the assessed value of their real estate up by an average 9 percent, which will translate to higher real estate taxes.

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But no tax rate increase is included in the city’s proposed $250.2 million operating budget for 2003-2004. The tax rate is $1.08 per $100 of assessed value.

The proposed budget, shared with the Suffolk City Council on Wednesday, is 9.4 percent – approximately $23 million -higher than the existing one.

The proposed budget would give a break to residents in the Suffolk taxing district, who are now paying an additional 16 cents per $100 of assessed value for extra services, including mosquito services and street-sweeping. The budget recommending reducing the incremental tax rate to 14 cents.

The recommendation stems from the increased investment in the commercial downtown area, said Finance Director Christine Ledford. Those investments have resulted in increased revenue generated by sales and meal taxes and by real estate values that have increased by 20 percent over the past seven years.

The budgets calls for giving the city’s 950 employees an average 4.5 percent, performance-based pay raises, Ledford said.

The bulk of the budget – approximately $101.9 million – is earmarked for education, which includes funds to provide a 4.5 percent pay raise.

Highlights of the proposed budget include:

— nThirty-two new positions, including 17 public safety positions to fully staff the North Suffolk Public Safety Center; a communications director;

and two additional library positions.

Based on a consultant recommendation, the budget would also reclassify 25 positions, Ledford said. None of them are management-level positions.

— Established a golf course fund with $616,000, which will be used to finance the Sleepy Hole Golf Course reopening once the renovation is finished next summer. The golf course will be self-supporting and the money will be repaid to the city.

— The budget calls for increasing the cigarette tax from 30 to 50 cents per pack and increasing the E-911 fee from $2 to $2.50.