Budget meeting follow-up

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 25, 2005

If I read correctly, one idea is to chop $300,000 from the planned half million for

&uot;software,&uot; not hardware, to make it easier for the assessor to stick it to us each year. I’m curious how any software could cost half a million dollars. You mean to tell me that no software company has ever designed an assessor computer program, or is this one to be tailor-made for Suffolk? Half million is a nice round number, department budgets are like that, and the software would be nice but I’d rather they use an abacus and slow things down. And in spite of all the plans to cut the tax rate, the city spent seven grand for an electronic voting board so the clerk will not have to speak the names of council members. When she says &uot;go&uot; each pushes a button. It does make us look more &uot;big city.&uot;

If the tax rate were dropped a laughable two cents there still will be no tax cut…it’s no different than the federal government spending a little less than planned and calling it a tax cut when all they are doing is lowering the increase a smidgeon. Only the amount of the tax increase would be lessened…you will pay more taxes. Don’t be fooled…the city merely waits six months and raise the assessments to offset it…more monkey business.

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You can tell council was well-organized last Wednesday night to thwart the manager’s budget; the six went off in different directions. Milteer is sticking with five cents, still a pittance, and Johnson believes they are all taking the wrong position. It’s obvious none of the rest understand her sensible &uot;across the board&uot; budget cut, each department figuring how to do with less. And you can bet every department’s budget can stand fumigation. What kind of a department head worth his salt asks only for what is absolutely necessary? Take Linda’s advice, boys, demand an across the board whack, say about ten percent. They will squirm but they can do it. There is far more that can be cut than the items that showed up on the manager’s short list. Raise the cop and firemen pay and cut everything else. Question: what prevents Council from voting just because one was not there? It could still be 5 to 1, 4 to 2, 3 to 3. Was this a deliberate stall of the vote?

Why is Council so determined to give Dr. Liverman what he says he must have? To gain what? He still thinks it’s smart to pay some teachers more than they are worth and some far less than they are worth.(tenure) Take a look at graduation rates, SOL results, and then tell me a few million will move us to a genuine &uot;higher level.&uot; And we don’t need &uot;alternative&uot; schools as much as we need a &uot;prison farm&uot; for those who refuse to be educated. We could use a large leaky barn for the nasties taking up school space and &uot;feed&uot; them to a platoon of Marine Corp drill sergeants for a semester or two. And some of their parents should join their progeny. It’s a joke to think that this school system will supply minds fit for hiring by high tech industries flooding into Suffolk. A good part of &uot;graduates&uot; can’t deal with a fast food cash register that calculates the change due. Many of them will go on to college and the first subject will be remedial reading. That school budget soaks up half the city taxes collected and not one council member, including Jones, appears aware of the weaknesses in the educational system. Just throw money.

I understand Suffolk is taking part in the exciting Virginia Arts Festival and hosting the Miami String Quartet and the Koresh Dance Company. I’d have to be chained down to attend either. Next year how about some good old banjo music, or a Russian chorus singing Kalinka, a rouser that will keep you awake? I fell asleep listening to a string quartet and broke my glasses on the back of the chair in front. Then the lady in it glared at me for disturbing her &uot;state of being&uot;…I swear her eyes were glazed. I’m not a renaissance man but I can play my keyboard with my ears and fingers, am computer literate, type with ten fingers, create oil paintings, have a collection of classic music, raise hundreds of perennials and spend more time tending flower gardens than most ladies in the garden clubs. I ain’t completely cultureless just because I go fishing and take a pint now and then.

Our tourist bureau (you should see the city budget for that department) keeps pushing the idea that there is more to do &uot;South Of The James&uot; than on the north side of the river. They put out a nice piece called Good Time Bulletin that lists all the many things in which Suffolkians can participate; and there are plenty. But how many brochures in the Visitor Center rack refer to &uot;tourist attractions&uot; in Suffolk? They are good at stretching things a bit; example, lumping the three biggest lakes in Suffolk as Suffolk Lakes when they belong to Norfolk while others belong to Portsmouth. I call that &uot;fudge.&uot;

If you think the Hilton and Cultural Center got a lot of your taxes, be prepared for a shock in the near future when plans are fully unveiled for the proposed Suffolk Sports complex over near Driver (part of Suffolk). This will be great for the residents in north Suffolk. Five adult softball fields with dugouts and bullpens for starters. Two Little League fields. One high school field, one multipurpose field, Interpretive/Education center, and a car top boat launch with an overlook pier. It gets better, a 60,000 sq ft indoor recreation center. And a nice touch will be the Equestrian Center with a 2400 seat indoor center with service and trailer access. Two outdoor bridal rings for horses, (500 seating), four stable buildings (400 stalls) with service and trailer access.

I’m nearly out of breath but I’ll struggle on. Trailer/RV parking (400 spaces), two multi-purpose fields with lighting, A ranger station, two basketball courts; two tennis courts, skate park. Water features with &uot;Overlook Gazebo.&uot; You’ll see twenty acres of open, programmable space, and a central plaza with reflection ponds and amenities. There will be an amphitheatre with lawn seating for 10,000 and an elevated/covered stage, and a partridge in a par tree.

No, I am not dreaming. Oh yes, I nearly forgot…a picnic grove, wildlife refuge, and a multi-purpose trail. I suggest there be a donation jar in every fast-food outlet in the city. That’s why they need better software in the assessor’s lair, that Sports Complex will require raising assessments to the roof.

Robert Pocklington is a regular columnist for the News-Herald. E-mail him at robert.pocklington@suffolknewsherald.com