Meals tax to be on
ballot for 5th time
 
By Nancy Lindsey
Four members of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors are determined to get a 4% food and beverage tax--also known as a restaurant tax and a meals tax--passed in Patrick County.
On a motion by Blue Ridge District Supervisor Karl Weiss, the board voted 4-1 Monday night to petition the circuit court to put the meals tax on the ballot for the fifth time in a decade.
The board also voted unanimously to approve a separate resolution earmarking the funds from the tax to emergency medical services in the county.
The meals tax was defeated in 2004, 2009, 2012, and 2013 by large margins. One of the arguments against the meals tax in the last two elections was that non-profit organizations could only hold three fund-raising events per year without charging the tax.
This year, proponents of the meals tax believe they have a stronger case than before, since the Virginia General Assembly passed a law exempting all non-profits--volunteer fire departments and rescue squads, churches, charitable and historic organizations, animal rescue societies, veterans' organizations, youth groups and all others--from the necessity for collecting the tax at fund-raising events.
House Bill 1099 was co-sponsored by Del. Charles Poindexter at the request of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors, passed by both the state Senate and House of Delegates, and signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
The referendums on the meals tax were defeated four times in the past decade, but the three-event limit was only in effect for the past two ballot questions (due to a change in the law in 2009) and was considered a contributing factor in those defeats.
Voting in favor of putting the meals tax referendum on the November ballot, in addition to Weiss, were Smith River District Supervisor Crystal Harris, board chairman; Peters Creek District Supervisor Lock Boyce, and Mayo River District Supervisor Danny Foley.
Dan River District Supervisor Roger Hayden voted against the motion, saying he didn't support any new taxes.
"I don't like earmarking funds to pass on to the next board," Hayden said.
Harris said the resolution would not hold any future board responsible.
"It's our intent" to dedicate the funds to emergency medical services, but the resolution would not obligate the board, Boyce said.
Boyce said the tax would mainly be paid by "rich people" from other localities, apparently referring to the meals tax that would be charged by Primland Resort if the referendum passes.
All restaurants located in the town of Stuart already collect the meals tax, and that tax generates about $250,000 annually for the town.
The revenues generated by a meals tax in the county have been estimated at around $200,000--more than the approximate $175,000 generated by one cent on the county's real estate levy.
"I know the county is going to be strapped for funds," Foley said. "If people pay it in this county that money won't be going to other localities."
"It takes some burden off the county," Weiss said. "If we get some revenues from outside the county, it's a win-win situation."
"Let the people decide," Hayden said. "If they do decide, EMS is the best place to use it."
The board voted unanimously to pass the resolution dedicating the funds to EMS if the referendum is approved.
In other matters at Monday's meeting:
*William Sprout, who lives in the Smith River District, said he and his family are bothered by a neighbor's dog that barks constantly. He asked the board to consider a "barking dog ordinance."
The supervisors said the county has no zoning and no ordinance regulating noise.
Boyce said he had worked on such an ordinance in Henry County, and found it almost impossible to write--or enforce--an effective ordinance.
The best solution is to hire an attorney and take the matter to civil court, Boyce said.
"You'll find a lot of judges are sympathetic to that," Boyce said, adding, "it's almost impossible to keep a dog from barking. Sometimes putting the dog in the house will work."
*Following closed session, the board appointed Karen Wilson to the Patrick County Planning Commission and reappointed Ronnie Haley to the Patrick County Economic Development Authority.