Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Public Hearing Scheduled on Meals Tax Proposal

Last evening City Council took the important and urgent step of scheduling a public hearing for April 5 to consider a temporary 2% increase in the prepared foods tax (meals tax) for the benefit of the Roanoke City Public Schools. The unanimous vote to move forward and hold a public hearing enables us to get over the legal hurdle necessary to bring this matter to a final vote, which should be held following the April 5 public hearing.

None of us wants to raise taxes; in fact, I'll be the first to say that I wish I paid less taxes than I already do. But the reality is that lawmakers in Richmond are not fulfilling their Constitutional responsibility to adequately and appropriately fund our public schools and to provide a sound, quality education to children across Virginia. They have let us down, and have created massive budget deficits for localities that make the upcoming budget decisions exceptionally difficult.

I believe to my core that the long-term future of Roanoke is directly linked to the success of our schools and the quality of the students that benefit from those schools. A temporary, 2% increase in the meals tax would provide more than $4 million to our schools, helping to keep class sizes reasonable with the potential to help save 4 year-old pre-kindergarten and other programs that most benefit urban youth.

I'd love to believe that we have no need to raise revenue, or that something less than 2% on the meals tax would suffice. But the whole $4 million+ that a temporary 2% increase would create is needed. This is the reality that City Council faces. And last night was a bold move by each member of Council.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Meeting with Educators

The Roanoke Education Association held a membership meeting yesterday to discuss the current state of education funding and to discuss any efforts to try to affect final decisions being made in Richmond.

They also invited City Council to attend the meeting and offer a few words. I'm happy to report that the sense I got was that the educators who were able to attend the meeting are fully aware and understand the consequences of the decisions being made in Richmond to cut massive amounts of funding to our public schools. For the last couple of years, and certainly for the next several years, teachers and educational staff have been and will be asked to do more work with less resources, teaching larger classes with less materials offered. We have some of the very best educators in the state, and I think we should all be confident that they will do their very best to help work through the current situation.

I also addressed the meals tax proposal that I made several weeks ago. I believe that the matter is urgent and that City Council should deal with the need for more revenue sooner rather than later. All my colleagues on Council are working exceptionally hard to navigate the current financial crunch, and I believe that in the end we'll make the right decisions.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Vote today

Today is primary election day in the City of Roanoke. You have three votes and I'd encourage you to cast all three.

I certainly have my preferences, but it's up to each person to understand what the candidates stand for and the type of leadership and committment they'll bring to City Council and to make the most informed decision you can.

No matter who you support, please vote.