Budget includes 6-cent tax increase

Published 5:31 pm Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Suffolk residents would see increased real estate tax and water and sewer fees under the city manager’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2014.

The real estate tax would rise 6 cents per $100 of assessed value. Half that money would go toward an additional $3 million commitment to the Suffolk Public Schools, Budget and Strategic Planning Director Anne Seward said during a presentation to City Council on Wednesday afternoon. The other half would offset revenue losses stemming from the fifth consecutive year of decreases in assessments.

Suffolk would still have the second-lowest rate in the region following the increase.

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“I hope our citizens understand they get the biggest bang for their buck in our region,” Seward said.

The $3-million increase in funding for the schools would be significantly less than the $9 million that had been requested. City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn called the school division’s request a “disconnect with the reality of available city resources.”

The school system also will receive $1.5 million more in state and federal funding than had been expected, Seward said.

Under the city manager’s proposed budget, water and sewer rates would rise about 10 percent, by 71 cents and 47 cents per 100 cubic feet, respectively. The new water rate would be $7.84 per ccf, and the new sewer rate $5.82 per ccf. However, a minimum usage charge would disappear completely, allowing customers who use very little water to pay for only what they use.

The $17.50 monthly fee for trash and recycling collection would remain the same.

The proposed spending plan of $513.7 million includes no new raises for any employees, except for a state-mandated 1-percent increase to offset an additional 1-percent contribution employees now are required to make toward their retirement. However, the proposal retains a 14-percent raise for the city manager that council approved in January.

The budget calls for eight vacant positions to be frozen and anticipates a cut of $2.4 million in areas like equipment replacements, part-time and overtime funding for fire and rescue and legislative services. Even so, general fund spending rose 3 percent to $179.3 million.

The city took some suggestions offered by the public at a March public input session into account. Several citizens recommended delaying capital projects, and the city chose two on which no contracts have been issued — the Bennett’s Creek Recreation Center and a master plan for a new downtown library and West Washington Street revitalization.

However, other capital projects will cause the city to take on nearly $34 million in new debt.

Another increase would hit users of Parks and Recreation facilities. Rental fees will be increased to offset the operating costs of the new Whaleyville Community Center.

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held during the April 17 City Council meeting. Adoption of the final budget is proposed for May 1.

The full budget document is available at www.suffolkva.us. It also is available at city hall, city libraries and recreation centers.