Surry County eyes 6% food and beverage tax

Published 2:22 pm Wednesday, May 13, 2020

By Stephen Faleski

Staff writer


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Surry County’s proposed $49.5 million budget for fiscal year 2020-21 includes a new 6% food and beverage tax.

According to Acting County Administrator Melissa Rollins, the proposed tax would work the same as what is referred to as a meals tax in other localities, meaning restaurants would be required to add a 6% charge to their customers’ bills, then hold that revenue until the tax comes due.

While the exact amount of revenue this will bring to the county won’t be known until after a year, particularly considering that Virginia restaurants are currently restricted to offering takeout or delivery due to COVID-19, Rollins has included an estimate of roughly $80,000 in her proposed budget. 

The reason for the tax, she said, is threefold. It will diversify the county’s revenue base, much of which is currently dependent upon the public service corporation taxes it receives from Dominion Energy’s Surry Power Station. It will also make up for a projected shortfall in revenue, and put Surry in line with surrounding jurisdictions that have implemented this tax for the purpose of having dollars to support economic development and tourism activities, she said. 

No specific project is tied to the revenue from this tax, but economic development and tourism are both high on the Surry County Board of Supervisors’ priorities, Rollins said.

“The dollar value of operational impacts (from COVID-19) are still being evaluated,” she added. “Surry is unique. We don’t (currently) have meals or lodging taxes or robust shopping … Tourism, due to the closure of local attractions/state parks, will be impacted, albeit the normal tourism season would be just getting started.”

The county’s contribution to Surry County Public Schools is budgeted at roughly $12.3 million, a decrease of $97,015 from what the county contributed at the beginning of the current school year. Its capital improvements budget for FY 21 totals just over $8.1 million, the majority of which will be used for a mobile public safety communication system and the implementation of broadband throughout the county.

The Board of Supervisors has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed budget for 7 p.m. Thursday. County residents wishing to speak on the budget are to call 1-877-568-4106 (toll-free) to participate.