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A peek into plans for the future? November 18, 2005

The city of Suffolk recently released its legislative agenda for the 2006 General Assembly session. The document basically details issues city officials think are important and states how they would like legislators to rule on these issues. In some cases, this may be projects the city would like the state to help fund. Others are issues policy-oriented with the city requesting the state to either to take some action, or no action, as the case may be.

I’m not sure how much weight, if any, the document carries. I seem to be getting more cynical by the day, but unless it comes to legislators in an envelope that includes a $25,000 campaign contribution, it probably winds up in a lot of Richmond trash cans.

Nonetheless, a reading of the document reveals what one would assume are plans in the works for Suffolk and its residents. I’m not suggesting that these positions by the city are good or bad, merely intriguing.

A few examples follow:

Under the section labeled &uot;Tax Polices,&uot; the city makes it clear that it opposes any legislation designed to restrict local taxing authority…including the imposition of property tax limitations.

This has become a big issue in recent years, particularly in Suffolk, where real estate assessments have been rising from 10 up to nearly 30 percent, generating millions in additional tax revenue for the city.

Many people have been calling for legislation that limits the growth of assessments.

That is what the city is opposing in it’s policy statement and here’s perhaps why: Now that it appears the white hot housing market may be cooling and prices are topping out, it’s likely the rate of assessment growth will decline so the only way to sustain the recent rate of tax revenue growth would be a rate increase.

The section labeled &uot;Regulatory Policies&uot; is also interesting.

Remember last summer when the Supreme Court issued its &uot;Kelo&uot; decision, the one that expanded the definition of &uot;public good&uot; from its traditional reference to roads, schools and parks, to include economic development. The decision meant, basically, that it was OK to condemn private property of one person to sell to another who had plans for the property that would generate more tax revenue or jobs for the city.

There was an outcry in many corners against the decision, seen as an assault on private property rights, and some legislators began talking about restricting the ability of local governments to condemn property.

Well, Suffolk is opposed to any such legislation. Make of it what you will, but if I owned property near the Hilton Garden Inn or in downtown that wasn’t being remodeled into a restaurant, condominium project or parking facility, I’d be a little nervous.