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Eight ask for more money in budget

Eight people came to a public hearing on the city budget Wednesday night to request more money for their organizations and full funding of the school budget request.

Representatives from the Suffolk Fine Arts Commission, Nansemond-Suffolk Volunteer Rescue Squad and ForKids Suffolk House asked the City Council for more funding for their organizations. Two representatives from the Education Association of Suffolk urged full funding of the school budget request, which is included in the proposed budget.

Three people spoke on behalf of the Nansemond-Suffolk Volunteer Rescue Squad.

“This vital service provided by volunteers is highly cost-effective and should be considered for increase, rather than reduction,” said Kent Weber. The squad requested $100,000 in funding this year, but will receive only $50,000 if the budget passes as presented.

That could mean shutting the squad down, said longtime volunteer Rusty Hundley.

“The manager’s recommendation threatens the very viability of our organization,” Hundley said, adding that if the city had to bear the burden of the additional calls, the cost to the city would be “well in excess” of $50,000.

Linda Bunch asked the council for level funding for the Suffolk Fine Arts Commission — at least $8,500. The commission, which was created by Council and whose members are appointed by Council, will receive only $5,000 if the budget remains as presented.

The ForKids Suffolk House homeless shelter has seen its funding drop from the state and from United Way, said executive director Thaler McCormick. The budget recommends giving the organization $30,000 from a pot of federal money, though it asked for $60,000.

The $459.72 million budget proposal includes no real estate tax increase, no layoffs of or raises for city staff, no reduction of services and full funding of the school budget request.

A debt refinancing two weeks ago saved the city roughly $1.25 million on its debt payment requirements, which is good news for the school system — full funding of its request hinged on the refinancing saving at least $1 million.

Some City Council members seemed to support trying to find money in the budget to give to the nonprofits, but others hedged at making any changes.

“If you really want to help, let’s put our mouth where the money is,” Vice Mayor Curtis Milteer said, suggesting that a small sum could be taken from Council’s travel and training budget.

But Councilman Charles Brown was unwilling to make any changes to the budget.

“Once you begin to pull the threads, it’s going to be very hard to put back together again,” Brown said. “I would suggest let’s stay focused.”

Councilman Charles Parr suggested that some of the organizations who requested money could find help at the Obici Healthcare Foundation, which supports causes in the community that improve health care for the community, particularly the medically indigent.