Right call by council

Published 10:27 am Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Franklin City Council wisely is rejecting the option it had given itself to raise property taxes in the budget year that begins July 1.

City Manager June Fleming’s draft budget last month called for holding the real estate tax rate at 77 cents per $100 of assessed value — an amount that, combined with a drop in assessed values as a result of this year’s biannual reassessment, would result in less revenue for city coffers. The council, however, gave itself some flexibility by advertising to the public a real estate rate of up to 79 cents. State law forbids a locality from adopting a tax rate higher than what it has advertised.

At a work session Monday night, however, council sentiment was clear: The real estate rate should remain at 77 cents.

In a time of extreme economic uncertainty for property owners and city government, leaders should focus on making government smaller, not bigger.

The loss of International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill and the related share of tax revenue that the city gets from Isle of Wight County will force City Hall to operate more efficiently. This is how it should be, as opposed to asking property owners to make up the revenue loss.

As the economy improves, new jobs are created and Franklin experiences residential and commercial growth, the tax base will increase naturally, and the City Council will have more money to spend. For now, though, city leaders should concentrate on being thrifty.