Two show up at budget info session

Published 9:43 pm Thursday, April 14, 2011

After a packed public input session last month about the budget, only two citizens showed up to an information session Thursday evening.

They came with questions and concerns about a new trash collection fee, city memberships in regional organizations and other line items. Anne Seward, the city’s director of Budget and Strategic Planning, answered them all.

“We just can’t continue to reduce taxes every year and keep services,” she said in reference to William Harward’s question about the taxes.

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“When I get my tax bill, I’ll need that volunteer rescue squad,” Harward said.

The city proposes a 6-cent tax increase, which would bring taxes to 97 cents per $100 in real estate value. That’s still lower than every city in Hampton Roads with the exception of Virginia Beach. The budget also includes higher water and sewer rates and reduced funding for the school system.

Seward and other budget department staff, as well as Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts, were available to answer questions at the forum. However, only Harward and fellow citizen William Schmidt showed up.

Harward said he opposes paying a new, mandatory $18.50 monthly fee for trash pickup, bulk refuse and curbside recycling. Currently, trash and bulk refuse are paid for through the general fund and citywide curbside recycling is not available.

Harward said he believes it’s too soon to start charging for trash pickup because the city receives free disposal through the Southeastern Public Service Authority’s regional landfill. The authority is set to end in 2018, but could close the landfill sooner, which would trigger a requirement for Suffolk to pay tipping fees that are among the highest in the nation.

“We have to start now,” Seward said. “If we don’t, we won’t have time to get our act together.”

Harward also said he doesn’t want the city to be a member of the Chamber of Commerce, Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and other regional organizations. Seward encouraged him to arrive at a City Council public hearing next week and tell the Council that.

“We’ve eliminated quite a bit [of memberships],” Seward said. “We do receive a lot of benefit.”

A budget public hearing is scheduled for April 20 at 7 p.m. at 441 Market St. The entire budget document is available for viewing on the city’s website at; in city hall at the offices of the city clerk, city manager and budget director; and in city libraries.