Assessments up 1.4 percent

Published 10:49 pm Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The assessed value of properties in the city rose slightly this year, City Assessor Jean Jackson reported in Wednesday’s City Council work session.

Preliminary numbers show about a 1.4-percent increase, Jackson said, which means property owners will see their tax bill rise by about that much if the tax rate does not change.

Some good news in Jackson’s report is that the numbers of foreclosures and sales in lieu of foreclosure dropped, from 346 to 270 and from 71 to 30, respectively.

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Her assessments are based on the number of “arm’s-length” sales in the city in calendar year 2014 — about 824.

Immediately after Jackson’s report, council members heard about increasing costs in the fiscal year 2016 budget, which the city is in the process of developing.

About $9.8 million in new commitments and requests are staring the city in the face.

About $1.9 million in extra costs are already obligated, including a Virginia Retirement System increase, a cost of living adjustment and the second phase of a compensation study.

About $4.6 million for Suffolk Public Schools, including $3.9 million requested to implement a compensation study and about $715,000 for new school debt, is on the table.

Nearly $2 million in additional funding for public safety, including $628,000 for the Western Tidewater Regional Jail to cover a funding gap, is requested. Accounting for the rest is a host of unfrozen and new positions requested, including six firefighters, a deputy fire chief, a fire department accounting clerk, 10 new and one unfrozen police officer position, an unfrozen records technician, a new property evidence clerk, and a new call taker and new dispatcher.

About $208,000 for a new assistant registrar and new voting machines has been requested for the voter registrar’s office.

And, for the city, about $1.1 million will be needed to implement the third phase of the compensation study.

“I just want council to see where we are and what we’re up against,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said following the presentation. “It’s going to be a Herculean task.”

City Finance Director Lenora Reid said the assessor and commissioner of the revenue have reported about $2.5 million in increased revenue, which will help cover some of the gap.

Councilman Mike Duman suggested getting the same consultant who did the city’s compensation study about five years ago to update the document with current numbers.

“We’ve got some work to do,” he said. “There’s going to be some difficult decisions for everyone up here.”