Time to look at tax rate is now

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 22, 2004

Suffolk City Council members have not had any problem with what George Bush 41 referred to as &uot;the vision thing.&uot;

From education to public safety to quality of life and smart growth, Suffolk has enjoyed a golden era of sorts over the past few years.

But vision is not that difficult to come by, implementing it often is.

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Up until now, the city has enjoyed massive increases in revenue from economic development and wildly rising real estate tax assessments. In the budget presented Wednesday by City Manager Steve Herbert, those assessments are anticipated to rise by 16.9 percent this year, driving the city budget to more than $277 million.

With no additional money coming from the state, rising employee costs and continuing residential and school growth, it’s going to get harder and harder to fund Council’s vision.

&uot;We massaged everything we could,&uot; to make it work this year, Finance Director Christine Ledford said Wednesday.

As interest rates start to climb, assessments will level off, but the demand for services will not.

Future City Council members are going to have difficult decisions to make – either raise the tax rate or tone down the &uot;vision thing.&uot;

Ledford suggested more than once at a press briefing Wednesday that a strategic effort to restructure the tax rate will need to be undertaken in the future. She’s right, and the time to start is now.

Suffolk has gained lots of ground over the past few years and it would be a shame to see the vision toned down, expectations lowered. We urge City Council to start now planning for the day when the gravy train pulls out of Market Street.