Taxes, fairness and other fairy tales

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 28, 2004

If you own any property in the fine city of Suffolk, you know firsthand the fun of opening your property assessment notice from the City, to find out how much more they say your property is worth.

As with such news, it is not always what it seems at first.

What this news really means is that the city will happily send you a much higher tax bill, to share in your newfound wealth.


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Their thinking is that since you are now worth more due to your property increasing so handsomely, you should now pay more in taxes.

This year alone the city will see over a five million-dollar increase in property taxes, just due to increased assessments and I also assure you that our City Manager will spend it all.

The real question this situation raises is; if the objective of the UDO is growth control, why is there such zeal to spend the unwarranted taxes directly derived from the attached growth in assessments that is directly tied to limiting real estate supply.

After over five years of significant growth in property taxes driven by such contrived government growth limits under the UDO, it is about time that the citizens get a break.

I assure you that if you don’t say anything about this issue, the City Manager will be happy to continue to build more Hotels, rent more buildings, and find other projects to spend your money on.

His potential for spending is only limited by your tolerance for such pain and he will squeeze the golden goose (you and I), until every last nickel is had.

When our local leaders tell us that they have enacted ordinances for one purpose and then have an obvious and significant interest in pushing up our taxes as an unspoken slight-of-hand, one has to ask what their real purpose is?

If the purpose of the UDO is Growth Control, why after tens of millions of dollars of tax increases as a direct result of the UDO, has there not been even one reduction in property taxes?

During the May election season, there was a lot of talk about reducing the real estate tax rate by three to five cents.

After the election, it was stated that such was not possible due to the uncertainty of the state budget and the city funding that would come from the Commonwealth.

Then after the state actually gave the city more money than expected, our Finance Director found many reasons to spend all of this extra money.

In the end, the taxpayers were holding the bag again and it was empty.

It is well past time, the Finance Director find a method to reduce the tax burden on the over taxed property owners.

The historical percentage of local taxes paid by property owners is now at an all time high, in relationship to total city spending.

The gravy train has been barreling down the track picking up speed for the last several years as assessments have been driven higher.

It is time to make some hard decisions for those in government and turn some of the money the City Manager and our Finance Director want to spend, back to those who it was inappropriately taken from.

While there will always be plans for more spending from our well educated Finance Director, the Council and City Manager must find the spirit to give a small token of our exploding taxes back.

I am confident that the powers to be can and will always have plans to spend all that they can get, but it is now time for change.

The cost of giving a five-cent reduction in the real estate rate will cost the city-operating budget about a one-percent reduction from present spending or as they say in Suffolk, &uot;It is only Peanuts&uot;.

As one who has been involved in government and studied it for most of my adult life, I assure you that there is not a budget that does not have that much fat in it.

I know that a case can and will be made for more spending, but we can no longer afford such a situation.

The best example of such spending mentality is evident when the city budget was set, but more money showed up from the Commonwealth, we spent that also.

That is refereed to as &uot;Padding&uot;, and that needs to be changed.

During the last several budget seasons, there always seems to be significant effort made to find more to spend, rather than look to see if the proposed spending makes any sense.

After a 10 percent bonanza from the average real estate assessment hikes in our City just this year, which directly drive up your property taxes, it is well past time to ask why there has not been a tax reduction?

Please don’t just pay again this December when your tax bills come, ask your council why some of this tax fodder cannot be returned to you, rather that feeding it to the City Manager’s operating budget pig…

Roger Leonard is a Suffolk businessman and a regular News-Herald columnist. He can be reached at