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Council approves budget

Suffolk City Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a $639.4 million budget, one of its least contentious in recent memory.

The budget keeps real estate taxes level, fully funds the school division’s request and provides a 2.5-percent raise to city employees.

The real estate tax of $1.11 per $100 of assessed value remains unchanged, though general fund revenue is projected to increase by $5.8 million — from $213.2 million to $219 million.

But because reassessments rose by 1.17 percent, City Council had to hold a public hearing for an “effective tax rate increase,” which state law requires if reassessments increase by more than 1 percent. No one spoke during the public hearing.

“This budget has a lot to it,” said Councilman Roger Fawcett. “It helps in a lot of ways in this city.”

The budget provides an added $3.6 million in general fund money for personnel and benefits to provide for city employees’ cost-of-living adjustment. It would also pay for 24 new general fund positions, including 13 new police officer/emergency communications positions. It also addresses part-time and overtime requirements for public safety.

City funding for the school division will increase by $1 million — from $59.8 million to $60.8 million. The school division’s overall budget is $173.3 million, which the School Board approved March 19.

The capital projects fund is $64.5 million and pays for all projects included in the first year of the adopted Capital Improvements Program and Plan. About $24.9 million of that is anticipated to come from state and federal grants, and the fund includes $4.8 million from the general fund to be in compliance with the city’s pay-as-you-go financial policy.

A short-term debt issuance of about $2.7 million will go toward replacing portable radios for public safety.

“In our Finance Committee meeting that we had last week, our financial adviser was here and he said that this was one of our best constructed budgets he had seen in the city of Suffolk in a very long time,” said Mayor Linda Johnson.