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South Boston drops license plate tax

SoVaNow.com / May 29, 2014

South Boston Town Council has backed off a plan to impose a $100 local license plate tax on owners of vehicles that do not display a current Virginia license plate.

The proposed ordinance also included a $250 penalty for vehicles that are not registered in Virginia following the 30-day grace period mandated by state law.

The decision to abandon the effort came after a lengthy discussion of Council’s Finance Committee on Tuesday night. Town Manager Ted Daniel pointed to numerous exemptions to the $100 local license plate fee, including antique vehicles, those driven for farm use and military vehicles.

Also police officers pointed to the difficulties in getting convictions on the $250 fine saying such cases are frequently dismissed by the courts when the vehicle owner cites his prime residence as being in another state where the vehicle is legally registered.

Council has been mulling the proposed ordinance for the past three months.

Finance Committee members also discussed a recommendation from Destination Downtown (DDSB) on the development of a South Boston Special Event Vendor’s Permit fee which would be issued to cover the cost of the Town’s estimated $5,000 expense in supporting such special events as festival and the Christmas parade.

The DDSB proposal calls for the Town to set a $140 fee for each space occupied by food vendors, $60 for crafters and $80 for commercial vendors. These are the same amounts that festival vendors are now charged for space at the events. Non profit vendors are charged $30 each. The recommendation would effectively double the fees that vendors would have to pay for space at the Harvest Festival.

Councilman Bill Snead pointed out that looking at the recommendation from the standpoint of a vendor that doubled his cost of participating in the festival. He worried that would cut down on the number of participants, but even more he objected to the Town’s setting the fees. “Destination Downtown should set the fees itself and then use the money to reimburse the Town for its expense,” Snead argued.

Daniel pointed out that DDSB makes no money on the festivals, but by adding the extra fee, they might be able to show a profit after paying the Town the $5,000 which it projects as its cost of hiring employees (paying overtime) to close off the streets and clean up after the event.

Councilman Bob Hughes reminded his fellow board members that the vendors, particularly those selling food, come “because they make a lot of money.”

Mayor Ed Owens wanted to know how the increased fees would compare with festivals held in neighboring areas. Councilman Coleman Speece said he agreed with Snead that the Town should not set the fees, but should leave the matter to the DDSB. Speece was also quick to point out that the Town had financially supported festivals such as the Christmas parade and Harvest Festival long before DDSB was formed.

Daniel said he would relay Council’s response to the recommendation back to the DDSB board to get their input before moving ahead with the proposal.

Finance Director Erle Scott presented a very favorable monthly report pointing to the $234,309.81 in delinquent taxes and fees that his office had collected as of May 20. That amount is 189 percent of the funds listed for collection of delinquent taxes in the current year’s budget.

Scott also reported that 110 percent or $513,631 has been collected in current personal property taxes and collections from the business license tax also exceeded the $490.000 budgeted amount by 115 percent with $561,088 being collected.

Current Issues Committee members reviewed the public hearings set for their June 9 meeting to conditionally rezone a vacant lot located south of the Dan River from DR Dan River District to R-4 High Density Residential. The request, made by Bur-Can, will allow multi-family residential apartments to be constructed at the site.

Another conditional rezoning request, this one from Ray Conner, would allow for a vacant lot on Parker Avenue to move from a R-2 Medium Density Residential to B-1 Neighborhood Business District and allow for a personal service business to locate there.

The committee also discussed the $25 fee the Town expects to institute as a penalty for allowing dogs to run loose in the Town. They also considered appointments that need to be made in June, recommending the reappointment of Frank Lee and George Burton to the South Boston Industrial Development Authority and suggesting the name of Ann Conner be submitted for a seat on the Library Board.

They also recommended the reappointment of George Leonard and Coleman Speece to the Southside Planning District Commission and police chief Jim Binner to the Southside VASAP Board.

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Comments

Smart move. Maybe these revenue-hungry wonks aren't as foolish as they often seem.

Just before Marshall Ecker (Pitts. Co. supervisor) died, he was pushing to get farm use tags back in the property tax system. Farm oragnizations statewide were watching that like hawks, as does the AACA whenever some local politico gets the idea to put antique-plated vehicles back in it. That scheme died with him and hopefully will stay at rest.

Reminder to those in local government who would tax us more than our share- we are watching you when your schemes negatively affect our interests.


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