Our council’s priorities

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 3, 2005

Those hoping for some property tax relief were no doubt disappointed by Wednesday’s approval of Suffolk’s $312.7 million budget and the setting of the tax rate at $1.06 per $100 of assessed value.

While the rate represents a 2 cent cut over the current rate, it was not enough to offset the average 16 percent increase in assessments.

While many may have been disappointed, they should not have been surprised. Many years ago the Suffolk City Council adopted a set of priorities-which subsequent councils have reaffirmed on a yearly basis-that basically guarantees that more revenue will be needed to operate the city every year, beyond simply accounting for the rate of inflation.

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Those priorities include improving the school system (cha-ching!); developing tourism (cha-ching!); improving public safety (cha-ching!); and implementing the neighborhood and village initiative plan (cha-ching!).

While these are all noble endeavors, they cost money, and city council members are deserving of admiration for staying true to their professed priorities in the face of the financial hardship funding them might impose on those who elected them. There are not a lot of politicians with the backbone to do that.

Most of those council members who voted for the budget and tax rate will be facing election next year. If citizens want to pay less in taxes, they need to elect candidates with a different set of priorities. Those might include abandoning the village and neighborhood initiative plans; utilizing trailers instead of building new schools to accommodate school population growth; and telling veteran teachers, police officers and fire fighters that if they don’t like what they’re earning in Suffolk, not to let the door hit them in butt on the way out of town.

This council’s consistent vision of Suffolk has been that of a progressive city in which the quality of life for its residents is constantly improving. There is an alternative vision (described above), that will certainly cost less, but whether it’s the one we can afford is another matter and it’s up to the voters to decide.