By Taylor Boyd
In a 4 to 1 vote, the Patrick County Board of Supervisors approved the Transient Occupancy Tax Ordinance at a Thursday, Dec. 30 meeting.
This ordinance allows the county to take an additional one percent of the lodging tax and changed the split of the tax proceeds from 80 percent for the tourism department and 20 percent for the county to 60 percent for the tourism department and 40 percent for the county.
Denise Stirewalt, of the Peters Creek District, said she fought the change in the tax ordinance when she worked for the county as an employee.
“However, money is coming out of the general fund, which are local taxpayer dollars, and that is not supposed to happen,” she said.
With the state-sanctioned 60-40 split, the 40 percent the county takes will be able to pay administrative fees and go into the unrestricted general fund.
“So, that’s why we have to do the right thing and vote for this ordinance,” she said.
Clayton Kendrick, of Mayo River District, echoed Stirewalt’s statement, and added that things must be updated as they change throughout the years.
“We did check with other counties. We checked to see how they used the 40 percent as opposed to the 20 percent. So, we have done some research into the topic,” Clyde DeLoach, of the Blue Ridge District, said.
DeLoach was previously asked by members of the public why the board was looking into the tax ordinance.
“If you look at what hotels charge, it’s probably different from what it was when we first instituted this. So, things change and unfortunately, we need to do it,” he said.
Jane Fulk, of the Dan River District, cast the lone dissenting vote, partly because she said she was unaware of what the county had planned to do with the extra money.
“I heard that administration will include a little bit for the Treasurer, a little bit for the Commissioner of Revenue, a little bit for Mrs. Hazelwood (County Administration Geri Hazelwood), a little bit for Lori (Finance Officer Lori Jones) and a little bit for this one and a little bit for that one, and I can’t agree with that,” she said.
From her perspective, Fulk noted it seemed that anyone who would handle the money would need some of it.
While she understands that the board is using more than it is taking in and that it is a problem, Fulk said another issue is that there is no guidance as to how the board will use the rest of the revenues it is receiving.
“Are we going to use it strictly for what we’ve said we’re going to use it for or are we spreading it all over the county to whoever touches it,” she said.
In the research done into other counties that have a 60-40 split, Jones noted that the 40 percent usually goes into the general county fund. She said it will be unrestricted, general county funds like the county’s cigarette tax.
The salaries for the Tourism & Marketing Department will be continued to be paid out of the 40 percent.
Crystal Harris, of the Smith River District, said the Director of Tourism & Marketing was notified in 2016 by the county’s financial department that she was out of ordinance.
“We’re trying to get things that was not right back in its place. We’re not doing this to balance the budget as it was told, we’re doing it to be in compliance with state regulations,” she said.
In other matters, the board:
*Approved seven of nine American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Committee’s recommendations, including funding a new HVAC system for the Child Advocacy Center for the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and giving a $2 an hour increase to Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and certain Patrick County Sheriff’s Office employees. This extra money will be paid until the 2022-2023 budget is set to help improve employee retention.
*Lost signal during the discussion of the ARPA Committee’s recommendations. DeLoach said the board realized signal had been lost for Zoom participants after voting on the recommendation and voting to go into closed session. “Once we found out, we talked to our attorney and he recommended that we go back to the point that it was lost and start there” again, he said.
After reconnection, the board re-voted on the ARPA funds recommendation, and made a second vote to go into closed session.
“We had not started the closed session when we discovered the connection was lost. We were trying to get everybody on the phone so that was why it seemed longer,” he said.
*Approved the meeting minutes.
*Approved the bills, claims, and appropriations.
*Said goodbye to exiting board members Jane Fulk and Crystal Harris.