Let the council hear your voice

Published 1:16 pm Monday, March 18, 2013

By Lorraine Yuriar

Members of the Suffolk City Council made it abundantly clear in their last council meeting that they plan to raise our property taxes. They are banking on the complacency of the citizenry of Suffolk to be able to get the increase passed.

The city is facing a $3-million shortfall in the next fiscal year, due to falling property assessments. Couple this shortfall with a School Board budget that seeks $9 million more than last year, and we have what looks like a repeat of April 2012 on our hands.

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But if you wait until the April 2013 budget public hearing to speak out about the city’s spending habits, it’s far too late!

Mayor Linda T. Johnson and Councilman Charles Parr have called for a public hearing to give citizens a say in the city budget. They say they want us to tell them where to cut, and what programs we can do without. Councilman Jeffrey Gardy came right out and said we are looking at a property tax rate increase of at least three cents and possibly more, due to the school budget request.

Councilman Lue Ward gave voice to what so many of us feel when he asked if the council was seriously going to listen to the citizens, the implication being that they normally do not. He was told the meeting would be a rousing success if it was promoted properly.

Mayor Johnson assured him and everyone who watches the council meetings that the city would do a good promoting the public hearing and making its citizens aware of their opportunity to engage in the budget process.

On Tuesday morning, around 1 a.m., a message was posted to the city’s Facebook account. By the time most people woke up, that message had been buried by other announcements about road closures and construction projects. As I write this on Thursday afternoon, I have yet to see any formal notice of the meeting, other than the post to Facebook.

It appears that maybe Councilman Ward was right. Maybe the City Council really does not want a good turnout. This meeting provides members cover when they raise the property tax in April.

They will be able to shrug their shoulders at the outcry and say, “Well, we asked for your opinions before; it’s too late now.”

After all, this is the best year to raise taxes, because no one is up for re-election. So they can raise taxes and count on the citizens’ apparent short-term memory to re-elect them in 2014.

If we don’t get out there and make our voices heard, we have no reason to complain when the property tax rate increases.

I’ll be at the March 18 meeting, at 6:30 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn Riverfront, near downtown Suffolk. Will you?

Lorraine Yuriar is a homeschooling mom of three and the social media contact for the Suffolk Chapter of the Hampton Roads Tea Party. Email her at thekytikat@yuriar.com.