Budget hearing tops agenda

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 4, 2005

It takes giving and taking to build any municipal budget.

Tonight, it’s the residents turn to give feedback on City Manager R. Steven Herbert’s proposed $315 million budget for year. The public hearing on the budget will highlight the Suffolk City Council meeting at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Building.

Herbert’s recommended budget, unveiled at a recent council work session, calls for leaving the city’s tax rate at $1.08 per $100 of assessed property value.

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Although the tax rate would still be the lowest in Hampton Roads, residents are still grappling with assessments that grew an average of 16 percent this year.

In response to council’s request last month, Herbert is expected to show ways to shear the budget if city lawmakers opt in favor of a tax reduction at tonight’s meeting.

The City Council could adopt the budget as early as May 18.

Both Mayor Bobby L. Ralph and Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett said they were reserving opinions about possible ways to fund a tax reduction until after tonight’s hearing.

&uot;I want to make sure the public understands what the impact will be on public safety and other city services,&uot; Ralph said. &uot;I’m willing to look…at a reduction in taxes if it can be done without disrupting the city’s charted course.&uot;

While Bennett has said he would like to see a tax cut, he on Monday declined to say how he thought they might be funded.

Council Curtis Milteer Sr., who has been lobbying for a tax cut for weeks, is sticking by his guns.

&uot;My suggestion is that the budget be cut by 2 1/2 percent across the board,&uot; said Milteer. That equates to roughly $2.5 million.

&uot;Every program would still be in place and it would only mean a slight reduction in their appropriations,&uot; he said.

&uot;I’m a strong supporter of a tax reduction and that is one everyone could live with.&uot;