By Alex Bridges
FRONT ROYAL -- A proposal seen as a way to help the town recoup money it loses on the U.S. 522-340 corridor in Warren County appears headed to area state legislators.
The county plans to seek authority from the state to raise the meals tax rate from 4 percent to 6 percent and the lodging tax from 2 percent to 4 percent.
Even if the Virginia General Assembly approves Warren County's request, the Board of Supervisors must hold a public hearing on the proposed increases and then vote on the whether to raise the rates. County Administrator Douglas Stanley on Wednesday said officials plan to meet with legislators to present the drafted language of the proposed amendment to the state code.
Supervisors at a work session Tuesday endorsed the proposal. Supervisor Tony Carter did not attend, but members noted he expressed his support at a previous meeting for the rates as proposed.
"For us, it was the pros and cons of if you go for the whole apple and ask for 4 cents [on the dollar] you could very well not end up with anything," Stanley said. "Well, let's try to get something that is passable at the General Assembly level. ... This would be countywide, so we'd be collecting from places like Linden. The county may be in a position to augment that revenue."
Stanley read from an Oct. 10 letter he received from Town Manager Steven Burke regarding the county's proposed taxing request.
"As previously communicated to you, the Town would like to achieve a mutually beneficial resolution with the County to as closely as possible provide for the equivalent tax revenue lost by the Town for meals and lodging," Burke states. "The legislation developed and promoted by the County appears to be a possible remedy to a portion of this lost revenue. The Town appreciates Warren County recognizing the impact that losing this revenue has caused to the town."
As board Chairman Archie Fox noted, the town has not given the county a specific amount needed to recoup lost revenue.
"It looks like they want all of their lost revenue and this is a good step in that direction," County Attorney Blair Mitchell explained. "But they've never come out and said this is how many percentages."
The county would have to raise the meals and lodging tax rates by 4 percent and 2 percent, respectively, to achieve the amount needed to make the town whole, Mitchell and Stanley said. But Mitchell advised against seeking a meals tax rate increase by the full 4 percent.
"There is no county in Virginia that has a meals tax of more than 4 percent now anyway," Mitchell said. "We're asking to go 6 percent and to make them whole we'd have to be going to 8 percent and, no, that's just not realistic."
Fox said supervisors needed to make a decision and take action to move forward.
"We need to make a determination of what we're gonna do because we're not really getting recognition back from the town of what they want," Fox said.
The county needed to act this month and pass the proposed legislation to the representatives in time for them to introduce it in the next session of the General Assembly, according to Stanley.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or email@example.com