City looks at Assembly requests

Published 10:21 pm Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The City Council on Wednesday gave its 2017 legislative agenda its first look, discussing topics such as unfunded mandates and school funding.

With the General Assembly facing a gap in the state budget, Suffolk and other localities plan to resist any effort to balance the budget by taking away funding to schools or municipalities.

“The request is simply, ‘Do not try to balance the budget on the backs of the schools,’” said Rob Catron, a consultant hired to lobby on behalf of the city.

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While he said preliminary discussions about the state budget have not touched school funding, it still helps for localities to make their positions clear.

After severe flooding at the Kimberly Bridge during Hurricane Matthew swept away and drowned a man, money for improvements at the bridge is among the transportation funding requests, as it has been in past years.

Also among the transportation funding requests are improvements to Shoulders Hill Road and the Crittenden Road and Bridge Road intersection, as well as a North Suffolk connector that would provide a more direct route between North Suffolk and downtown.

A new Kings Highway Bridge and a parallel span to the Godwin Bridge across the Nansemond River are also bridge improvements for which the city will consider requesting funding.

Other positions in the proposed legislative agenda include opposing any effort to provide exemptions to stormwater fees.

Catron said local railroads have requested to be exempted from paying stormwater fees. But, he noted, even churches, colleges and hospitals pay stormwater fees for their parking lots.

“Once you start providing an exemption for one industry, every industry will be back applying for this,” Catron said.

The proposed legislative agenda also would oppose any legislation that limits a locality’s ability to regulate short-term rentals.

Preserving the taxing authority of local government is also a concern, Catron noted. In past years, efforts to do away with the business license tax and machinery and tools tax didn’t make much headway, and Catron said he has not heard of any “serious attempts” to bring the issue up again this year.

Requesting the state to fund Suffolk’s federal and state requirements related to water quality is also an item on the proposed legislative agenda.