, 2014


County supervisors adopt
2013 tax levy as proposed

Tax rate on large boats questioned

by Audrey Thomasson

LANCASTER—County resident George Bott, who owns a boat in excess of 30 feet, said the county’s high rate on personal property taxes is forcing large-boat owners to ship out to cheaper ports.

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LANCASTER—County resident George Bott, who owns a boat in excess of 30 feet, said the county’s high rate on personal property taxes is forcing large-boat owners to ship out to cheaper ports.

But his appeal seemed to fall on deaf ears at a hearing last week. District 2 supervisor Ernest Palin made a motion to pass all personal property taxes at the current rate, including $1.52 on boats, and the measure was approved unanimously.

In a separate motion by Palin, supervisors passed a real estate tax rate of $0.50 per $100 of assessed value, an equalized increase of $0.11 to adjust to 2012 property reassessments.

Bott, a watchdog of local government finances, last week told supervisors the county’s personal property tax rate on large boats runs off owners who would otherwise spend money here, leading to job growth.

“The rate brings in $1.7 million,” he said during Thursday’s public hearing on the tax rate. “About $400,000 comes from boats over 30 feet or five tons. The rate of $1.52 per $100 of assessed value discourages people from bringing in larger boats. Our marina slip vacancy rates are 50% at one large marina. Our goal is filling these slips with larger boasts. A lower tax rate would attract larger boats to our area, bringing more money which supports additional jobs.”

Bott said many boat owners don’t have their boats repaired in Lancaster marinas because they are subject to the county’s high tax rate once they are in the county past the six-month mark.

“These larger boats can take more than six months to be repaired,” he said.

Bott said a rate of $0.76 per $100 of assessed value on recreational boats would reduce revenue by $200,000, but it would be an “investment with a near certain short-term payback.” He said other counties have substantially lower rates on boats, further restricting Lancaster’s ability to attract boat owners.

A check of other tax rates shows Colonial Beach and Fairfax County have a separate rate on boats of $0.01 per $100 of assessed value. In Virginia Beach a rate of $0.000001 per $100 recently increased to 50 cents. Other counties in the Hampton Roads area followed suit at 50 cents per $100, but Prince William County has no tax on boats.

Two neighboring counties use a formula. Northumberland charges $3.60 per $100 based on 40% of assessed value. Middlesex takes 20% of low retail value, using a 35% tax rate of $3.50 per $100 of assessed value.

Bott said the local non-profit organization Visions is currently funding a formal study on the subject because the central issue is about more jobs. “With 330 miles of shoreline, let’s use it wisely,” he said.

Supervisor William Lee expressed surprise that a boat being repaired at a dock in Lancaster would be subject to county taxes.

District 2 resident Charlie Costello said he also is a boat owner and agreed with Bott’s assessment that the high tax hurts Lancaster.

Other county tax rates per $100 of value remain unchanged—with motor vehicles at $2.04; machinery and tools at $1.52; and merchant’s capital at $1 per $100 of assessed value discounted 50%.


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