Council set to adopt legislative agenda

Published 8:31 pm Friday, November 29, 2019

Suffolk City Council is set to adopt its 2020 legislative agenda and provide for a $5,000 salary supplement to the general registrar as part of its agenda for Wednesday’s work session and meeting.

Education tops its priorities on the legislative agenda, as it will ask the state to fully fund K-12 education during the upcoming General Assembly session. It will ask that the actual costs of the education Standards of Quality be fully funded, and that it pay for “meaningful workforce development programs.”

Council is also seeking to find money for the Kings Highway Bridge replacement, as the city “recognizes the Kings Highway Bridge as a vital crossing and request that our legislators work with the locality to identify a potential funding source for this priority project.”

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It also plans to pursue a partial exemption from the federal overhead recovery policy to allow the Western Tidewater Regional Jail to keep part of the federal money it receives for each federal inmate.

The jail, which currently has around 160 federal inmates, pays nothing for the first 76 prisoners, but once it goes above that, according to Rob Catron, a partner at Alcade and Fay, “we pay, literally, a penalty, every time we have another federal prisoner in the jail, which makes no sense, since Suffolk built the jail.”

Councilman Mike Duman proposed the exemption stop after 76 prisoners, and resume again when the jail reaches 131 prisoners.

“The taxpayers in WTRJ’s member localities should not be required to make up the difference in cost for housing federal inmates, as their federal taxes already paid to house these federal prisoners,” according to a proposed resolution up for a vote at Wednesday’s meeting.
Other legislative priorities as outlined in the resolution include:

  • Opposing changes to the current method for real estate assessments, including a real estate court in Richmond
  • Continued funding for broadband
  • Reducing rail grade crossing congestion to help re-route rail traffic away from the internal part of the city
  • Supporting the Historic Preservation Tax Credit program
  • Supporting the maintenance of the city’s stormwater fund.
  • Opposing the repeal or restriction of the business, professional and occupational license, machinery and tools or excise taxes unless, at a minimum, revenue-neutral replacement funding sources are provided
  • Opposing the reduction of a locality’s taxing authority “without providing new, broad-based taxing authority”
  • Continuing to prioritize public transit funding for both operational and capital needs
  • Supporting investment in the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund to help localities with stormwater projects to meet federal and state clean-water requirements
  • Asking legislators to work with state agencies “to provide reasonable reductions for industries that are the primary contributors to polychlorinated biphenyls,” or PCBs, which are organic chemicals that were once used in paints, sealants and building materials, and whose manufacture was banned in 1979. It is a noted pollutant in waterways.

The legislative agenda also said transportation funding “is desperately needed” and calls for the General Assembly to address nine specific transportation deficiencies, including the Kings Highway Bridge, increasing capacity of the Godwin Bridge, as well as improvements along routes 58 and 460, as well as Shoulders Hill Road and the North Suffolk Connector. It also wants money for railway-highway grade crossings, continued maintenance dredging of Bennett’s Creek, and the Seaboard Coastline Trail.

As for the additional money for the general registrar, the Suffolk Electoral Board has asked for an additional salary supplement due to what it said was the increased duties and responsibilities due to city growth. There is no budget impact, as existing money would be transferred within the general fund budget to cover the $5,000 supplement.

Both the legislative agenda and the salary supplement are items on the council’s consent agenda.

The council’s work session begins at 4:30 p.m., and its regular meeting begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall.