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Chairman Bob Warren discusses the rationale behind adjusting the meals tax rate from 4% to 6% and creating a transient occupancy tax: generating revenue that will allow for a reduction in the real estate tax rate - and thus the burden on county residents.
Your Board of Supervisors is dedicated to providing exceptional local government services at the lowest possible cost. We desire that our County becomes a place our children can be raised and educated, and then remain to work and raise their families. To do this, we must invest in our schools, our law enforcement, and volunteer emergency services.
Over the past five years we have endeavored to invest in the critical services that keep us safe. We increased support of our volunteer fire and EMS services by 76% and increased law enforcement salaries by an average of 24% since FY 2018. We have also increased funding for K-12 education by $2.5 million over the same period.
Just like your household, the County's expenses are constantly increasing. The cost of fuel, insurance, supplies, technology and all the ancillary items that are required to run a business continues to go up. We must have a stable and growing revenue stream to invest in our community, which is why we put so much emphasis on economic development, and the results and accomplishments are unprecedented. Your Board of Supervisors have announced more than 2500 jobs and $500,000,000 to the local tax base. The businesses we recruit pay a lot of taxes, which helps keep our citizens’ tax rate low.
This Board has been consistently working to lower the tax burden on our home and landowners. We have diversified our revenue stream and continue to look for ways to offset the cost of government. We recently adopted a new occupancy tax and increased our meals tax to 6% to attempt to capture more revenue from those "passing through" so that the entire burden is not, as it has historically been, on our own citizens.
The meals tax in particular seems to have made several folks unhappy, and I can't understand why. I have read with interest the numerous Facebook posts and comments that the Board of Supervisors is hurting its citizens by raising the meals tax by 2 cents to 6%. These are the same people that are paying a 6.5% meals tax to eat in the City of Danville, funding the City's budget. Why would you not want to give your hard-earned money to your own locality instead of the city, or instead of Lynchburg, Martinsville, Roanoke, or Halifax County, all of which have a 6% or higher meals tax rate? Why would you not want folks that pass through Pittsylvania to help fund our law enforcement and schools and emergency services? I want my taxes to help my own community, not where other people live.
The Board is going to continue to look for ways to offset our real estate tax rate. We will strive to substantially lower the rate in the spring of 2022 when we have our next opportunity. We will continue to invest in our future while maintaining a tax structure that is far lower than the majority of our neighboring localities and the rest of Virginia.