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Clock running for town, county tax deal

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County and town officials need to ink a request for a proposed meals and hotel tax levy in time for local legislators to take it to the general assembly.

In an effort to help Front Royal recoup some of the tax revenue it lost from businesses in the U.S. 340-522 corridor, Warren County plans to ask the legislature if it can levy a 2 percent tax on meals and the same rate in transient occupancy tax. The town, which supplies utilities to the corridor, once received revenue as a payment in lieu of taxes. However, since the businesses are not located in the town, Front Royal can't levy the tax in the corridor.

County and town officials have been working together on a possible solution in which the county would levy the taxes and remit the revenue to Front Royal.

County Administrator Douglas P. Stanley updated the town-county liaison committee at its meeting Thursday about the efforts. But as Stanley noted, time is running out if the localities want the upcoming session of the general assembly to take up their proposal.

"We're going to need to get it out to the folks here in the next month with our proposal so as quickly as the council can review it then the board will see it for the final time," Stanley said.

As Stanley explained, the tax levies would affect all county businesses. But the revenue collected through both taxes from those businesses in the corridor would go to Front Royal. Warren County would still need to hold a public hearing on the levies, according to County Attorney Blair D. Mitchell in a letter to Town Attorney Douglas W. Napier dated Wednesday. Mitchell's letter includes the proposed amendments to the code.

The circuit court ruled the town could not collect the payments in lieu of taxes from Front Royal's water and sewer customers. County and town officials have discussed the possibility of asking the legislature to allow the county to increase its meals and transient occupancy taxes above the authorized amount. State code allows counties to collect up to 4 percent for meals, a levy adopted by either a voter referendum or when the general assembly authorizes the locality to do so after a public hearing. Frederick County received the legislative authority through the latter process.

State code allows counties to adopt a 2 percent hotel tax and the legislature can authorize the localities to increase the levy above that base.

Stanley explained that approximately $600,000 of the taxes the county collects comes from businesses in the corridor. The county could remit some of that tax revenue to the town to help Front Royal recoup some of the money lost through the court decision.

Also at the meeting, Stanley reported:

  • On a proposal for grading and drainage at the Catlette Mountain landfill site. Stanley explained the plan would call for the creation of a drainage ditch around the landfill to prevent water from eroding the landfill in the process of capping. The county received bids for the project and Stanley said they hope to begin the project in the fall.

  • On efforts to find a software package for the building inspections department which he said would connect the town and county and increase efficiency for the customers. The building inspections department would see, via the system, when an applicant receives a permit, Stanley explained. Additionally, the program eyed by the county would allow the inspectors to map out the easiest driving routes for their inspections on their iPads, Stanley said.

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