Supervisors asked to implement lodging tax
by Larry Chowning
The subject of implementing a lodging tax in Middlesex County surfaced at the April 10 public hearing on the proposed FY15 Middlesex County budget. Saluda resident Andy Bury requested that the board of supervisors not consider the currently proposed 5-cent real estate rate tax increase until a lodging tax is implemented.
“I object to any consideration of a real estate tax increase,” said Bury. “Too many times real estate is used as the piggybank when this board could implement a lodging tax as an alternative.”
Supervisors have considered a “transient lodging” tax twice before. It was considered in 2010 but dropped after hearing arguments from those involved in the lodging business that only $20,000 in revenue would be generated by the tax.
The board addressed it again in August of 2013 when then board chair Carlton Revere requested a motion to hold a public hearing on a proposed lodging tax. However, no board member came forth with such a motion.
Unlike the county meals tax that required a county-wide voting referendum for approval, a lodging tax only requires a public hearing and a majority vote by the board of supervisors.
Bury said he had questioned one supervisor concerning the lodging tax and was told that supervisors felt it was an unfair tax because it targeted a specific industry.
Bury contended the meals tax targets restaurants and people going out to eat; real estate tax targets real estate and citizens who own real estate; and personal property tax targets car and boat owners.
“I hope you get my point,” he said. “You are already targeting specific industries. Taxes in general impact groups of people.”
Bury made it clear he does not blame the lodging industry for the lack of a county lodging tax. He said the tax does not cost the lodging industry; it costs the people who visit Middlesex County.
Bury also noted that the cost of police protection and county donations to fire and rescue squads are higher in the FY15 budget, and these services are used by visitors staying in the county lodgings.
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