A few ways to cut spending

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 14, 2005

Editor, the News-Herald

I attended the April 20, 2005. Suffolk City Council Meeting where the current real estate mil rate and the needs for this year’s municipal budget were discussed.

For those who were not present, I offer a synopsis of what I heard.

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From the seven speaking in favor of high taxes, I heard:

&uot;Taxes aren’t high enough,&uot; &uot;I would gladly pay more,&uot; &uot;Needs of a growing city,&uot; &uot;Don’t get caught behind the curve like Chesapeake,&uot; and from Dr. Liverman, &uot;Critical to improve education in this city.&uot;

Of course, all but Dr. Liverman looked like downtowners, developers and real estate agents to me.

I’m a bit confused.

On education, I thought that Dr. Liverman didn’t believe in merit pay so this concedes that he can’t distinguish between good and poor teachers well enough to pick out who should be rewarded.

So his plea for more cash is obviously intended to give significant pay raises to the same teachers who can’t teach worth a darn now in hopes that this will encourage them to do better next year?

Just how does this transformation work?

If the issue is getting better teachers, you have to weed out the bad ones first.

If the issue is poor morale leading to lower performance, I’d suggest those problems be addressed before asking us for more money.

Besides, I hear the same mass media outlets you all hear from daily.

I keep hearing that public education is failing because of poor parenting, MTV, popular culture, private schools, not enough sex education, not enough diversity, not enough Ritalin, voucher programs and the religious right.

Seems to me that none of these frightful conditions will be &uot;cured&uot; by throwing more money at public education!

I’d suggest Dr. Liverman define what his problems are before asking Council to throw more money to fix them.

Only five Suffolk citizens bothered to speak out against the current Suffolk mil rate as being excessive considering the double-digit inflation in real estate values.

Personally, I stammered some because I only came to listen.

But when so few were willing to say anything, I blundered ahead anyway using some notes I pulled together at the last minute.

In any case, Milteer and Johnson are clearly for reducing taxes to some degree.

Bully for them; and they deserve your continued support.

On the other hand, Joe and Calvin sat there like stones.

But the B.S. meter really pegged out when the remaining three spoke.

&uot;Need to consider what’s on the table&uot; -Brown.


It’s a bit late for that, Councilman!)

&uot;I’ll wait until somebody tells me where we can cut spending without giving up any services,&uot; said Ralph

(Ahh-Still in search of the mythical free lunch!)

And, &uot;If I find that people are willing to wait two-three hours for police response or fire protection to arrive, I’ll consider seeking a lower tax rate,&uot; said Bennett (How many really believe that if the City municipal budget does grow a full 12 percent in one year, police and fire professionals won’t be able to do their jobs?)

Now, does Councilman Bennett really lack critical thinking skills or was his comment just another political threat to retaliate where he knows it will hurt the citizens of Suffolk the most?

Taking him at his word means that the education program he came out of is woefully deficient, but-hey-I don’t know the Councilman well enough to accuse him of being disingenuous.

So, for Mr. Bennett-and any others on the City Council who are similarly cognitively impaired-I will suggest a short list of potential spending cuts that does not involve the city of Suffolk going out and mugging the first policeman, fireman or other emergency first responder they can lay their hands on.

Here’s a short list.

Perhaps it can inspire some better ideas from others.

Why not eliminate the assistant directors at every municipal department level? (Why? Because I suspect that these are the people actually doing the work that the department heads were hired to perform!)

Stop throwing our money at culture and art and let those who enjoy these pursuits fund such projects on their own.

Stop competing with the public sector in land and development speculation ventures.

Cut the salaries of every municipal official already making more than $75,000 a year by 10 percent and share our pain-for the needs of a growing city, of course!

Eliminate the assistant to the tourism director, or dozens of similar jobs that have padded the Suffolk employee rosters over the past several years! (Municipal government is not a jobs program!)

Keep the city vehicle fleet in service for another two years before replacement.

Keep the public school budget as is, but cut the pay of every public school administrator making over $60,000 by 10 percent to provide some more pay to the teachers that deserve it!

(Sorry, but somebody might have to be able to tell the difference between a performer and a warm body!

If all else fails, look to the public sector for clues!)

If there was a will, I’m sure there would be a way.

George H. Mears ME, MBA,

Cdr USN (Ret)