This blog includes news about City Hall, city schools and other 22401 news.Pamela Gould reports on City Hall. You can reach her at 540-735-1972 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Robyn Sidersky reports on city schools. You can reach her at 540-374-5413 or email@example.com.
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Tomzak’s “philosophical statement”
Five people spoke at tonight’s tax rate hearing, all telling the council members that the rate hike would hurt businesses disproportionately and keep families from spending money that contributes to tax revenues.
Before the hearing, though, Mayor Tom Tomzak asked every council member to go around and make a "philosophical statement" about the budget. (For a minute, I feared this would extend the meeting until 1am, but apparently nobody but Tomzak felt like sharing.)
Tomzak then read a wide-ranging collection of thoughts, touching on the following areas:
On help from the state:
"We are located by two affluent counties. … For every dollar we pay in education we get 20 cents from the state. For every dollar they pay in education they get 75 cents from the state."
"Yes, there are storefronts that are closed down there, and they’re closed out in central park, too, which is a greater source of revenue for the city."
On the decline in the sales tax as a percentage of city revenues, which has been due in part to competition from neighboring retail developments:
"The competition is not going to go away. We are going to have to get into tourism. We must go aggressively forward with the infrastructure. Our needs are significant."
On how far government can (or can’t) cut:
"When somebody calls 911 at three in the morning and smells smoke or hears a banging on the door, they can’t hear an answering machine. We have to sustain public safety and we have to sustain a national class school system. It takes us a lot of money to train a fire fighter and train a policeman …and we are going to lose them to up north if we keep playing politics with city personnel."
On outside agency funding, which he first said needed to be prioritized toward human services agencies, but now doesn’t want to touch, at least for this year:
"We cannot prioritize these things in a vacuum. … This year, I’m not going to cut off the battered women, the children in need, the other things, throw old people out into the street. That’s just not going to happen."
Vote coming later on tonight.