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  • County To Raise Lodging Tax

    Friday, September 14, 2018

    HARRISONBURG — Rockingham County plans to increase its transient occupancy tax by 3 percent.

    During its meeting Wednesday, the Board of Supervisors directed county staff to set a public hearing later this month to raise the levy from 2 percent to 5 percent.

    The change would be effective Jan. 1.

     

    Rockingham was added to a list of 54 other counties that can levy a 5 percent tax under legislation introduced this year by Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, that passed the General Assembly.

    State law prohibits unexempted counties from enacting a tax of more than 2 percent on lodging — including hotels, motels, boarding houses, campgrounds and rented guest rooms — rented out for less than 30 straight days.

    Virginia limits how the additional revenue can be spent. Money generated beyond a 2 percent levy must be designated and spent on tourism initiatives.

    Page County is among the counties that can impose the higher tax. The county allows tourism efforts to apply for grant funding that is doled out of the additional revenue.

    County Administrator Stephen King said the county receives about $260,000 a year from the tax. The increase would generate an additional $390,000.

    King said Rockingham is still considering the best way to spend the additional funds. He suggested adding staff to the county tourism department and making contributions to the Rockingham County Fair and Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport.

    The increased tax will be levied on short-term rentals at the request of Supervisor Mike Breeden.

    Supervisor Bill Kyger agreed the rentals, like those offered through airbnb.com, should be taxed to “be fair to everybody.”

    “That equals the playing field,” he said.

    Rockingham is among several localities in the area considering regulations on the rentals. Any regulations, such as requiring a special-use permit to operate a rental, would be a separate matter than the tax increase.

    If no regulations are in place by Jan. 1, King said the county would be unable to enforce the tax on short-term rentals already operating.

    The tax increase hearing is planned for the board’s meeting on Sept. 26, which begins at 6 p.m. in the County Administration Center, 20 E. Gay St., Harrisonburg.

    Immigration

     

    In other business, the board unanimously directed county staff to draft a letter urging its congressional delegation to tackle immigration reform.

    Supervisor Pablo Cuevas recommended the letter. Three weeks ago, he railed against an effort to get the board to pass a resolution urging Congress to approve “adopt legislation addressing the legal status” of those living in the U.S. under the Temporary Protected Status designation and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.

    The resolution presented last month was approved by the Rockingham County Democratic Committee. Members of the El Salvadoran committee COSPU (Comite Salvadoreno Paisanos Unidos) attended the meeting to support it.

    Cuevas said the letter should be sent to Democratic U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte.

    The letter, he said, should not single out any particular aspect of immigration reform or refer to any religious groups, nationalities or ethnicities. Instead, it should only urge Congress to address immigration in a “nonpartisan way” as soon as possible.

    “Immigration is a national issue that is mainly addressed or should be addressed in Washington, D.C., by the Congress as well as the executive branch,” said Cuevas, a Cuban immigrant. “I personally don’t think it is a good practice for our board to be addressing this issue piecemeal by different groups dealing with different nationalities and different programs.”

    Kyger said immigration reform won’t be fixed until it is no longer a partisan issue.

    “We need to stop using people as political footballs,” he said.

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