Supervisors Ignoring Public On New Tax

Feb. 12, 2021

Editor, The News-Gazette:

On June 6, 2020, Supervisor Jay Lewis said, “public input [at county hearings] will tell us whether we are on the right track.”

Apparently, public input does not pertain to new taxes. On Monday, Feb 8, private citizens, business owners, and representatives of numerous nonprofits in Rockbridge County requested the supervisors not to act on a proposed admissions tax that will adversely affect their ability to sustain their organizations.

The supervisors instead chose to unanimously approve the tax, which will start at 3 percent in January 2022, increase by another 3 percent in 2023 and eventually cap out at 10 percent [or up to $3] in 2024.

Supervisor Ayers, at the 2020 meeting said, “if we don’t do this [admissions tax] we will put too much pressure on property taxes.” Supervisors McDaniel and Lewis both campaigned on increasing the tax base, but now appear to support increasing taxes on the base.

Chairman Dan Lyons once said he “would find opportunities in crisis.” A bit unsettling to think of taxes as an opportunity, especially during a pandemic. Mr. Lyons defended the vote by saying the business owners and nonprofits will come to one of three conclusions at the end of 2022. Lyons stated, “They will have one year to prepare for the tax, and then they can decide if the tax is not going well, or if they can live with the tax, or even everybody is happy, why don’t we increase it?”

I believe that hell will freeze over before any business or nonprofit would ask for an increase. Ironically, the Virginia Horse Center is an admissions venue that currently receives a 3 percent subsidy from the 10 percent food and lodging tax in Rockbridge County. None of the supervisors offered an explanation as to why the VHC receives tax dollars but the nonprofit admissions venues and attraction businesses will incur a tax they oppose.

Mr. Lyons advised that the law can be changed if it is the “will” of the Board. Obviously the “will” of the people who spoke at the meeting was of little significance. Apparently when it comes to raising taxes, the governing body of Rockbridge County is prepared to “eat its own.”

ANNE RUSSEK

Natural Bridge

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