Supervisors discuss further study of sales tax bill

The James City Board of Supervisors discussed plans for a future meeting devoted to further study of the proposed Historic Triangle sales tax bill Tuesday.

Sen. Thomas K. “Tommy” Norment’s sales tax bill, Senate Bill 942, would raise the sales tax by 1 percent in Williamsburg, James City and York to support the region’s tourism. Half of the revenue would be earmarked for marketing the region to overnight tourists. The other half would be allocated to Williamsburg, James City or York, depending on where the taxes were collected. The bill passed both the Senate and House of Delegates. It now awaits a signature from Gov. Ralph Northam.

County staff is expected to prepare a presentation on the effects of the bill on the county for the Board of Supervisors’ next meeting on March 27. The county plans to send Gov. Ralph Northam a letter to ask him to refrain from a decision on the legislation until supervisors can learn more about the proposal and provide additional information on the bill’s effects.

The deadline for Gov. Ralph Northam to act on the legislation is April 9. As of Tuesday evening he had not acted on the bill. The bill was criticized by some board members for what they considered a lack of public input on the legislation.

“What bothers me most is the process,” Supervisor Jim Icenhour said. “I don't think we we’re involved as much as we should have been.”

A staff fact-finding mission would help answer lingering questions and provide information to provide the governor for his consideration, Supervisor John McGlennon said.

“I’ve asked for some additional information a couple of times over the last couple of months and still have not received the kind of information I was seeking,” McGlennon said.

McGlennon said he wondered what the bill’s impact will be on retail businesses, whether any other localities are taxed to support tourism services and what the state does to fund tourism.

“I think there is a lot of things I want to talk about as far as what’s going on here,” Supervisor Michael Hipple said.

There’s also the question of what to do with the local allocation of the revenue should the bill pass.

“I consider this money for all intents and purposes found money,” Supervisor Sue Sadler said, referring to the bill’s proposed allocation to localities.

Sadler proposed several potential ways to provide tax relief in response to the bill should it be put into effect, including reduction of the machine and tools tax up to $1.5 million, a similar reduction in the business professional occupational license tax or a reduced real estate tax.

Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.

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