The tax situation #110; May 9, 2005

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 14, 2005

Any member of city council whose been uncertain whether to extend tax relief to the citizens of Suffolk no longer need to worry themselves.

The facts are in, the people have spoken. It's clear now that the citizens of Suffolk and mainstream media not only do not want a tax cut, they would probably be OK with a 15 or 20 percent increase in the tax rate. The city should strike now while the iron's hot.

Twenty-five out of 30 people who spoke at a public hearing last week on the proposed city budget spoke in favor of it.

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This "nearly unanimous" show of support, as one newspaper editorial stated, is reason to accept the budget as presented and not cut the tax rate.

While there may be perfectly valid reasons to leave the tax rate and budget as it is, that many people showed up to support it is not among them. If we based our policies on what the most vocal supporters wanted, it'd be legal to hunt and kill abortion doctors and liberal judges, television programming would be all "Little House on the Prairie" reruns all the time, and Social Security benefits would be increased 25 percent a year.

Our online poll which just went up already shows a vote of 43-15 in favor of reducing the tax rate. It's not scientific, but neither is a public hearing.

There's a huge local government and education bureaucracy and downtown lobby with a vested interest in at least maintaining if not increasing the rate of growth of government spending. It's not too far-fetched to imagine someone was working the phones pretty hard to "get out the vote" for last week's hearing.

Be that as it may, I still don't have an opinion on the budget. I support higher pay for teachers, fire fighters and police and I think the investment in downtown has been the best thing that ever happened to Suffolk. By the same token, I also like to invest my hard-earned money in my family. Show me that every step has been taken to keep expenses down elsewhere and I'll support the increases. As I stated in a column in print last week, it may well be the most austere budget ever prepared and every cent of expense may be perfectly justifiable. I don't know. Neither do those who spoke in favor of the budget at last week's meeting n it's just got something in it that benefits them.

Several city council members have been on the fence over the tax rate, not sure which way to vote. They need to let their conscience and sense of what's right and fair guide them, not which side makes the most noise. That's all anyone can ask of them and it's what they were elected to do.