By Alex Bridges
WOODSTOCK - Town business owner Tara Bowman says local taxes hurt shops and ultimately the area economy.
Now Bowman says she needs to make a choice - keep Guiding Light Christian bookstore open or shut down. Bowman still can't give herself a paycheck in the 3 1/2 years since she bought the business. While she has seen business pick up, sales remain low.
"This is the heart and soul of every local economy," Bowman said at her shop this week.
But taxes on the smaller businesses, along with online shopping, undercut the local economy, Bowman said.
As the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors nears taking a vote on the proposed fiscal 2014 budget and tax rates, Bowman argues leaders need to think about the impact their actions may have on local businesses. The budget calls for higher real estate and property tax rates to pay for 2 percent increases in the cost of living allowance for county and school workers and for other spending needs.
Bowman noted her support of teachers and the schools, but also put the situation into perspective.
"Not just teachers but every government employee has got to understand the basic rule of economics, and their money comes from businesses, taxpayers," Bowman said. "Business-wise, doing this makes zero sense ... I've drained my savings to keep this store open.
"Now, would any of those teachers do that?" Bowman posed. "Our government employees, have any of them taken a look, because the money has to start here. Not my business, but every business."
Bowman blames the multiple taxes she as a business owner must pay to Woodstock and Shenandoah County. In addition to taxes, Bowman argues the town charges her too much for a water and sewer service the bookstore hardly uses.
Like any business owner in Shenandoah County, and those within limits of most of the towns, Bowman must pay two tax bills. Bowman pays a merchants capital tax assessed on the merchandise in her store as of Jan. 1 each year. She also pays Woodstock a business professional, cccupational license tax each year. The town charges a rate of 13 cents per $100 of the business' gross receipts.
Commissioner of the Revenue Kathleen Black said Friday the county charges the merchant capital tax in lieu of the business professional occupational license. The county charges a rate of 60 cents per $100 of value of the stock business owners report in the stores. That rate has not changed since 1981, Black said, referring to county information.
In addition to the tax burden, Bowman argued the town charges her too much for water and sewer. The bookstore has a bathroom that seldom is used, Bowman said. However, the town still charges her approximately $60 per month for the minimum rates even if no water or sewer is used, Bowman said.
Bowman and her husband Daryl also operate a livetock-hauling business. Daryl Bowman Livestock "carries the weight" for the family, she said, but still feels the tax burden. According to Tara Bowman, the shipping business must pay taxes on the trucks that serve as business vehicles.
"You don't see the overhead and what it takes to keep them running," she said. "The more and more the government keeps taking out of your pocket - because everybody wants a handout - that's less that we have to operate and to keep the money flowing locally."
Bowman said she recognizes the value of government and school workers.
"Yes, we have to appreciate them because, yes, they teach our kids, they keep us safe," she said. "But they also have to understand where this money is coming from, and when it's just not there we can't just keep taking."
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or email@example.com