Virginia county refuses boat tax cut

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. – Boaters and marina owners in Virginia were dealt a setback earlier this week when the Stafford County Board of Supervisors refused to grant a tax easement they had been seeking, the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star reported in a story Wednesday.

A group called the Coalition to Save Stafford Marinas had asked the board to reduce the county’s personal-property tax rate for boats, which is currently several hundred times the rate charged by nearby localities, according to the newspaper.

Those communities have reduced their boat tax to practically nothing, in the hopes of attracting larger and more expensive boats, meaning the owner of a $100,000 vessel can save $2,200 a year by going elsewhere. That disparity is taking a toll on marinas in Stafford Country, where 440 fewer boats are on the tax rolls now than in 2002, the Free Lance-Star reported.

“All we’re asking for is a level playing field,” Jimmy Franklin, co-owner of Hope Springs Marina, told supervisors. “It’s difficult for us to compete against other counties when they don’t charge this tax.”

The county also loses out, Franklin said, when boats dock elsewhere, the county misses sales tax from the purchases of ice, groceries, gasoline, repairs, parts and other supplies.

Marinas that can’t stay profitable face more pressure to sell waterfront property to developers.

Some supervisors were swayed by those arguments, but others said they would prefer any tax cuts be given to other groups, who they felt were more deserving, the newspaper reported.

“I support a reduction in all taxes,” Supervisor Mark Osborn said. “But I’d rather address the 39,000 homeowners and give tax relief there before we give it to the boaters.”

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