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Council approves legislative agenda

Suffolk’s City Council unanimously approved the 2019 legislative agenda at its Dec. 5 meeting.

The legislative agenda includes matters that may come up in the General Assembly that are important to the city of Suffolk, and it helps guide them as the Virginia General Assembly begins its session on Jan. 9, 2019.

The city’s agenda has not changed much since last year, and education funding remains at the top of the priority list.

According to the resolution the city approved, Suffolk believes that a strong public school system is essential to economic development and prosperity. They plan to ask the General Assembly to fully fund the Standards of Quality. The Standards of Quality include the cost of pupil transportation, school support staff, providing and updating broadband and other technology and instructional staff salaries.

Other priorities included in the draft agenda included the Western Tidewater Regional Jail Recovery Request for Exemption, Commonwealth Rail Line Safety Relocation and real estate assessments.

Currently, the Western Tidewater Regional Jail is not receiving its full federal per diem for the first 110 federal inmates it houses, and this forces member localities to pay the difference. Suffolk is requesting an increase in the partial exemption from the federal overhead recovery policy.

To help improve economic development and emergency response, Suffolk is requesting funding for the Commonwealth Rail Line Safety Relocation.

The agenda includes attempting to have the Port Authority fund a study to see what it would take to relocate railroad lines in Suffolk due to the expectation of higher traffic in the coming years.

The city believes the current rail alignment has a negative impact on existing businesses, emergency response time and traffic patterns.

A member of the General Assembly plans to propose a bill that would remove a homeowner’s option to file an appeal for a manifest error. The manifest error provision allows homeowners to appeal the assessment for their land, and the owner has to prove the assessor made an error.

The city of Suffolk disagrees with removing the manifest error standard. If the standard is removed, then there won’t be a standard for how to handle real estate assessment appeals.