BERRYVILLE — Proposed new taxes in Clarke County didn’t elicit many comments at public hearings on Tuesday.
The county’s fiscal 2022 budget proposal includes revenues from a planned 40-cents-per-pack tax on cigarettes and two-cents-per-dollar tax on prepared foods and beverages. Also planned is an increase in the county’s transient occupancy tax rate from two cents to 3½ cents per dollar.
Only two people spoke during public hearings held by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday on the spending plan and taxation matters, said County Administrator Chris Boies.
One was Maninder Sethi, who operates the J&J Corner Store at the intersection of Harry Byrd Highway (Va. 7) and Shepherds Mill Road (Va. 612) east of Berryville.
“He was worried about losing customers,” Boies said of Sethi, considering “cigarette prices have gone up several times” in the past year.
Sethi couldn’t be reached for further comment on Thursday.
The other speaker was Pam Thompson of the Clarke County Education Association. According to Boies, Thompson voiced support for the budget proposal.
Both the cigarette tax and the so-called “meals tax” would be implemented only in unincorporated areas of the county. They wouldn’t be charged in Berryville and Boyce. Berryville already has a cigarette tax of 10 cents per pack and a meals tax of four cents per dollar.
The county’s cigarette tax is expected to generate $100,000 in extra revenue. The meals tax is projected to generate $150,000.
During the public hearings, nobody spoke about the meals tax or the transient occupancy tax rate hike, expected to increase the county’s coffers by $26,250. That tax, charged by motels and other lodging businesses, mostly affects people from elsewhere who stay overnight in Clarke County.
The supervisors will consider adopting its fiscal 2022 budget, including the new taxes and the transient occupancy increase, during their next regular meeting on April 20.
Expenditures in the budget proposal total $45,266,154, an increase of $1,365,921 from the current fiscal year that will end June 30. However, the county anticipates collecting only $44,906,659 in revenues. As a result, it plans to dip into its fund balance — basically, what’s been left over from past years after assets were used to meet liabilities — to balance the spending plan.
The county advertised that its real-estate tax rate is to remain 61.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. Yet plans actually are to lower the rate to just 61 cents. Commenting on the budget proposal immediately before the hearings, Boies said if the supervisors don’t approve the cigarette and meals taxes, the 61.5-cent rate will be kept to make up the revenue lost from the proposed taxes.
County funding for the Clarke County Public Schools is proposed to increase by $294,748 to $15,974,232. In his speech about the budget, Boies said the total amount is based on expectations that all students will be in classrooms full-time this fall and “remediation (will be provided) to help kids catch up where there may have been some learning loss because of the (COVID-19) pandemic and the distance learning.”
Boies’ budget speech and informational slides that he prepared are on YouTube. To view them, go online to clarkecounty.gov, then click on “government,” “joint administrative services (finance),” “budget and financial” and lastly “proposed FY22 budget video presentation.”