A little now, or a lot later

Published 9:28 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The last thing anyone wants to hear right now, especially during these tough economic times, is “Let’s raise taxes.”

Still, to its credit, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors boldly brought up that uneasy subject at its regular meeting Monday night.

The board is considering a tax on motel rooms and meals as a way to raise revenue.

The transient occupancy tax at lodging facilities and a meals tax at restaurants would help the county raise additional funds and possibly minimize the need to increase property taxes.

The idea makes fiscal sense. Most of the county’s neighbors already levy both taxes — some to a higher degree than the county is considering. In Virginia, 63 of the state’s 95 counties have a transient occupancy tax, and 40 counties levy a meals tax. Closer to home, Greensville and Isle of Wight counties, and the cities of Franklin, Suffolk and Emporia, have both taxes. Franklin levies a 6.5 percent meals tax and an 8 percent transient occupancy tax.

If the plans announced Monday are to continue, Southampton’s citizens will be allowed to comment on the proposed transient occupancy tax at a forum in April, and could possibly be voting on giving the county the power to levy a meals tax in November.

We encourage those stakeholders not to dismiss the taxes out of hand. Consider that people passing through will pay much of these taxes.

Property taxes, however, are all yours.