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Last updateWed, 19 Nov 2014 8pm

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“High Tides” wash away boat and real estate tax increase

Boat and marina owners packed the Pete Bone Meeting room Wednesday to voice their divergence with the Colonial Beach Town Council’s proposal to raise real estate and boat tax for the next fiscal year.
The council was considering a .03 cent real estate tax increase and a raise on boat tax from .01 to $1.50 per $100 of assessed value to help bridge a $245,834 budget deficit.
The council applied $150,000 from the sale of the boardwalk property to Brian and Vicki Coffman, owners of High Tides Restaurant, to next year’s revenues. Members also removed $50,000 dollars that had been budgeted for paving roads in Riverside Meadows for next year, and all members of council gave up their pay of $150 per month to put $15,000 into the general fund. The resulting budget went from a deficit of nearly $250,000 to $30,834 short, without raising either tax.

“I pay quite a bit of real estate tax in this town,” said Kyle Schick, owner of the Colonial Beach Yacht Center. “I moved here knowing full well there was double taxation. I also realize the town of Colonial Beach offers a lot of amenities that you can’t get in a town of the size. We are the only community that serves the public the way you all do.”

Schick recognized the council’s efforts to cut costs and appealed to members to look outside the box for revenue, citing previous ideas to charge for parking in Castlewood Park and for the use of the boat ramp on the point as good alternative sources of revenue.
“A large increase in real estate would be detrimental to the community. So if you have to raise real estate tax, try to keep it to a minimum,” Schick said.
More than 50 people signed up to speak about the boat tax.
The group tried to convince the council that the boating was the only industry in this town and brought in a large amount of revenue and should be sought after as our biggest asset.
Boat owners threatened to move their boats, sell their boats or sell their homes and move out of town.
Marina owners cited information given at a meeting last month by Thomas Murray of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science who introduced a study from Hampton, Va., to help shed light on the impact of property tax on boats.
According to Murray, the Hampton Study showed a marked increase in the number of boaters to the community after the boat tax was lifted in 2002 and showed increased revenue in boat-related expenses. Murray reported that the study determined that no tax on boating was fiscally responsible for Hampton.
Mary Virginia Stanford of Stanford’s Marine Railway spoke passionately against the boat tax increase.
“I think I’m the oldest person here tonight,” Stanford said. “I think I have lived here longer than any of you. I don’t know, I think I have loved Colonial Beach as much or more than any of you. I’ve put a sign up, talking about selling the Marina, but I want to stay with it. We need this type of industry. … Water is our greatest asset and we need to attract business, vacationers and boat owners to come and enjoy this town and spend money, and they do. We need them. Taxing [boaters] is like biting the hand that feeds you. … Look at our seal with the boat. Boating is our industry.”
Ruth Lovelace appealed to the audience to go to the town Web site and view the minutes of previous meetings to educate themselves on what is going on in the town meetings.  
“I do think that some of the people in the room need to be slapped a little bit, because at the last meeting there were only 27 people, and I, for one, need to be one of those people that need to be smacked because I wasn’t there,” she said.
Lovelace spoke of the passion she and others have for boating but urged her fellow voters to step up and get involved even when it doesn’t affect their backyard.
Members of council stated they had been moved by the group and their passion for boating, but in the end it was primarily the town’s sale of boardwalk property that enabled the council to forgo both tax increases and balance next year’s budget with only a $30,000 deficit.
Linda Farneth

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