Will they read? Will they listen?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 6, 2004

By the time this is printed, both Curtis Milteer and Linda Johnson will have been returned to the City Council where they will deliberate how much the tax rate, now $1.08, will be reduced. Of course they don’t have to, they’ve been reelected and are safe for a spell, but they should if only to provide proof that constituents made a good choice, where there was a choice. Their motivation could be the headline of The Virginian-Pilot on May 1, which read &uot;Beach Considers Property Tax Relief.&uot; (They did insert a caveat stating that changes depend on money from the state budget.)

What this means is that in a closed session they will kick it around for a few seconds, so it will show in the minutes, then look at each other, smile and vote not to touch it. Then each can tell his/her constituents they tried, fought hard but were outnumbered. It’s your guess whether I’m referring to the council at the Beach or Suffolk. Only I know.

I took a hard look at my recent invitation from the city to pay up by June or be evicted. I suppose some would say, &uot;Well, it only went up $430.&uot; But I immediately told my wife to cut down on her Celebrex and just tough it out. Her eyes said, &uot;There goes your fishing licenses and bait for the rest of the year.&uot;

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A friend of mine has an income so low he pays no state or federal income taxes. But he has to come up with over $3,000 each year for Suffolk property taxes. That’s $250 a month that he could use as a payment on a used car instead of bicycling five miles to work in the rain. But then he would encounter the automobile tax, decals, license plates, gas, oil, etc. He was really touched by Mr. Harward’s Letter to the Editor where he pointed out how much is budgeted to cover city employees dues and membership fees. He kicked my shin for even suggesting that we should consider a bigger City Hall. He said he would give up an arm for the legal right to peruse the city budget and cross out what he thinks they don’t need. Why not, he’s giving up an arm and a leg now to pay what the city calls his fair share. Everybody but him gets a raise.

His Social Security check went up $5 a month, hardly a raise, his pitiful pension sat still, and his old dog died. He looked at that as a positive because he couldn’t afford to feed it. It’s to the point where when he gets a letter request for a donation he writes, &uot;deceased&uot; on the envelope and puts it back in the mail box. If Milteer or Johnson read this far do you suppose they will get serious and convince two other council members to drop the rate a notch or two? I’d feel blessed if I could get the feeling that each item on that budget scroll had not received the usual 10 percent padding for contingencies. I’ve created budgets, I know about that stuff.

How difficult would it be to tax everyone either by their income, or the services they receive? Take the latter…my youngest child is in her 50s so I figure I cost the schools nothing and they were educated in Michigan. I get trash pickup by those burly experts who find it humorous to drop the trashcan lids nowhere near the cans. And that’s it. I have my own water and septic system, and if a policeman patrolled my street I’d never know it. So I figure I’m costing the city about, let’s say two minutes a week times 52 weeks times 3 trash personnel earning about $12 an hour. That adds to less than $50. Fifty bucks a year, and that seems fair to me. But the city should pay me for the time it takes to fiddle around each year obtaining a decal for my car with a pretty picture on it that a cop can’t see if he’s behind me. Talk about dumb…they could at least make it easy for the cop by having it on the rear window where the inspection sticker should also be.

I don’t know folks, is it time for another civil war? Do we have to march on city hall? Don’t you agree that once, just once they would listen to the people and at least knock a penny off the tax rate…give us something to celebrate? Call your council member, now.

Robert Pocklington is a resident of Suffolk and a regular News-Herald columnist. He can be contacted via e-mail at robert.pocklington@suffolknewsherald.com