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With spike in tourism and camping, Pittsylvania County considering new lodging tax, increase in meals tax

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A possible meals tax increase and new lodging tax are in the works in Pittsylvania County.

If approved by the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors, the hike would raise the county’s food-and-beverage tax rate from 4% to 6%. Also, the new transient occupancy tax on those staying in hotels, AirBnBs and other similar establishments would be 4%.

The increase and the new tax would help ease the burden on property owners by avoiding a hike in the real estate tax rate, which is currently 62 cents per $100 of assessed value. That means an annual tax bill for a property worth $100,000 would be $620.

“The Board of Supervisors is working to find creative and alternative revenue streams to avoid placing a disproportionate burden on landowners,” said county spokesperson Caleb Ayers.

The county’s real estate tax rate was last increased in 2018.

During a finance committee meeting last week, supervisors expressed support for exploring other ways of generating revenue. Besides the new lodging tax and increase in the meals tax, options discussed included a cigarette tax, fire tax and a tax on plastic bags. But supervisors decided against pursuing those latter possibilities.

Board members and county staff agreed the transient occupancy tax would be the easiest to implement and would create significant revenue.

Bob Warren


“We’re letting outside sources help pay for our services,” Bob Warren, finance committee member and board of supervisors chairman, said during the committee’s meeting last week. “That’s what successful and prospering communities do and that’s what we need to continue to do.”

County finance director Kim Van Der Hyde told the committee the meals tax increase would bring in an additional $375,000 per year. The proposed September music festival at the Blue Ridge Amphitheater in Blairs, the Blue Ridge Rock Fest, would generate about $12,000 to $15,000 in transient occupancy tax revenue alone if the tax were in place, she said.

Van Der Hyde pointed out that any additional money generated by a transient occupancy tax rate above a 2% rate must be dedicated to tourism.

Joe Davis


Joe Davis, Dan River supervisor and finance committee member, expressed support for the tax during the committee meeting and said the Olde Dominion Agriculture Complex could hold the extra money created above the 2% rate. The complex has been advocating for agritourism, he pointed out.

“Half of the proceeds should be managed by [ODAC] to manage tourism,” Davis said. “I think it’s an opportunity for the county to grow and expand.”

Warren agreed that the complex should hold the money.

“I do like the idea, depending on how we can segregate the tourism funding and be able to monitor it properly,” Warren said.

Ayers told the Danville Register & Bee on Tuesday the county has seen an increase in camping and other lodging volume, “which is a big reason why the transient occupancy tax is being proposed now.”

“The majority of people utilizing these options don’t live in Pittsylvania County, thus allowing us to spread the tax burden to non-residents,” Ayers said. “The board believes it makes sense to capitalize on that spike in tourism and camping, especially when those people will be utilizing our infrastructure and services and visiting county businesses.”

As for real estate, the county is in the middle of its reassessment, with new property values to go into effect Jan. 1. Once the updated values go into effect, the board will consider whether to adjust the tax rate, Ayers said.

“The goal of looking at alternative tax options now is to ensure that our land-owning citizens don’t have to pay for everything their county government does,” Ayers said.

The county also has a 1% sales tax referendum on the ballot in November to used for school capital projects.

Public hearings will be held on the proposed meals tax increase a new transient occupancy tax during the board’s July 20 meeting at 7 p.m. in Chatham.


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