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Virginia Beach city council decides against shifting money away from light rail

Posted at 11:31 PM, Oct 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-20 23:31:24-04

Virginia Beach, Va. - City council members rejected a proposal to shift money away from the ongoing light rail project on Tuesday night.

The proposal from Councilman John Moss would've taken $10 million appropriated for continued efforts to bring light rail to Virginia Beach and helped ease a projected $33 million budget shortfall in the city.

"I'm just making sure that the tax payers budget accurately reflects the current year requirements," said Moss, who added that he wasn't trying to begin another debate about light rail.

Moss said the money would come from money originally intended for the purchase of light rail cars, which is no longer necessary as the state has agreed to pay for them.

None of his colleagues agreed and the proposal failed. There has been no final to extend light rail in the city, but last spring city council members voted to give $20 million to continue its study.

Mayor Will Sessoms said the proposal could be talked about further, but budgeting time in the spring would be the time to do it. "I believe the council is doing everything reasonable and acknowledging there is no final decision," he said.

As council talks about light rail again, the opposition is trying to rally. They're led by an elected city leader, Treasurer John Atkinson. "I have not been running this campaign as city treasurer I have been running it as a citizen," Atkinson said.

Atkinson started a website, nolightrailvirginiabeach.com, and says he's gotten thousands of dollars in funding against light rail. He's used that money to organize a team to hand out fliers, bumper stickers, and has run ads in community newspapers.

Their goal is to get the light rail back on the ballot in 2016 in a referendum question: Should city council of Virginia Beach use local funds to extend the light rail from Norfolk to Town Center?

The group needs more than 27,000 tickets to get on the ballot, according to Atkinson.

Related:

Virginia Beach city manager warns of possible $33 million shortfall

HRT invites public comment on light rail options

Beach Councilman: Big tax increase coming to Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach or Naval Station Norfolk? What’s next for light rail

Should Virginia Beach residents pay to bring light rail to the resort city?