State petition should not be necessary

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 9, 2005

Local government critic Roger Leonard is moving his battle against the city’s recent budget action and mounting real estate assessments onto a new playing field.

Last week, Leonard gathered more than 1,000 signatures on petitions asking the state to intervene in soaring real estate tax rates statewide.

He is proposing that Virginia localities be required by law to reduce their mil rates by the same percentage as they raise their assessments annually.


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&uot;We want the mil rate lowered enough that assessment increases becomes revenue neutral,&uot; said Leonard.

Any tax increases should be subjected to a public hearing and should not exceed the current rate of inflation, Leonard said.

On its face, it sounds like a fair and equitable way to do business. Soaring real estate assessments nationwide, particularly in Suffolk, are having a drastic impact on taxpayers. And cities such as Suffolk that are experiencing growth pains believe the revenue couldn’t come at a better time.

There have been two factions appearing before the Suffolk City Council: one that believes the locality needs all the tax revenue it can get to pay for schools and other services consistent with the city’s growth, and the other that’s saying enough is enough. Simply put, group two believes residents are paying enough and the city is simply being greedy.

We agree with Councilman Curtis R. Milteer Sr. who said that this is a problem for local government to resolve, not the state. However, Leonard, who appears at every council meeting, doesn’t feel city leaders are listening.

It’s too late for council members to make a difference in this year’s budget.

Just maybe the threat of state intervention will prompt lawmakers in Suffolk-and other localities in Virginia – to take heed to what over-taxed citizens are saying next year.