Virginia, Suffolk deserve better fiscal management

Published 6:41 pm Tuesday, March 9, 2010

As a fiscal conservative, I believe in budgeting. I believe most taxpayers understand the city is trying to accommodate shrinking national and state funds with their education cuts, and the facts appear to show there might not be anything that the public can do to stop those cuts from happening now.

However, we also expect our tax dollars to be utilized for basic citizen needs such as transportation, public servants and education. I am disappointed with government across the board for making education the main focus of budget cuts whenever the need arises.

There is a reason the education fund is one of the largest pools of money in a municipality’s budget. It is imperative to the growth and development of the state and city economy.

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Cutting school funding means possible loss of current accreditation status due to lack of resources. When school districts are poorly funded, new and current homebuyers, as well as current and potential business owners, consider areas where funding cuts are smaller and business is better. When homeowners and businesses go elsewhere, cities do not have a steady pool of taxes to collect from, and school funding suffers, quality teachers look to other districts, classrooms are overcrowded and resources are stressed.

All of these factor into reducing the quality of education and create a domino effect throughout the local economy.

My husband and I moved here due to a career change from Northern Virginia, where most schools work with full accreditation and budgets to match. Moving to an area where that status was not ensured was a risk. We came, anyway, due to one particular school in Suffolk with a great reputation and accreditation level. However, we would consider relocating again if it meant our children could have a higher quality of education.

As a taxpayer, I hope our leaders will learn a lesson this year about the consequences of not having savings for our basic public needs, like education. When opportunity arises, I expect our local officials to develop measures to safeguard against a nationwide financial crisis threatening state and local resources for education.

Financial professionals suggest having at least six months’ salary in savings to carry individuals through financial crises. I believe our state and city officials should do the same, so that in a funding drought, the basic needs of the local economy will not suffer as heavily as they are now.

Responsible budgeting would enable us to avoid reacting with desperation. The city would be better prepared to carry on with basic programs during hard times. It is simply commonsense to save when money abounds, as the cyclical economy will always experience a recession at some point.

We pay our elected officials at the federal, state and local branches to be good stewards of our taxes. We urge them to reconsider special-interest projects or personal political agendas that are not imperative to the community’s success — like education. We will vote for them again if they show a sincere regard for future fiscal concern and present a plan to reduce the severity of budget cuts when they are requested again.

If they cannot concretely show us that they have tried every other means of reducing excess funds from other areas under their leadership — and that they will continue to do so in the future — then we will be forced to hire a new set of fiscally responsible employees in November.