Some Bath County residents argue recent tax increases are too high, too soon

Published: Jun. 11, 2020 at 5:20 PM EDT
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As we

, Bath County is struggling with unemployment.

Now, county leaders are raising taxes and some locals are arguing now is not the time.

Bath County's April unemployment numbers hovered at 20 percent, twice the state average. It's due in part to the closure of the county's largest employer, the Omni Homestead, which had to furlough almost 700 employees.

"Meals, lodgings is our bread and butter," Board of Supervisors Chair Eddy Hicklin told WDBJ7 Monday.

Hicklin said Bath County's meals and lodging revenue was down 90 percent from last year. Last month, they voted on and approved a tax hike.

"That's not gonna fix the issue," he said Monday in a Zoom interview. "You know we obviously need to get this virus out of here and get things opened up again."

The change amounted to a five-cent increase in real estate taxes, and a 10-cent increase in personal property taxes. It was 15 cents too many, according to some locals.

"It's a bad time for taxes," said Carl Chestnut.

Chestnut is among a group of residents arguing against the tax hike. The former Homestead employee said he submitted a petition at Tuesday night's board meeting to rescind the increase, a petition which he said now has more than 300 signatures.

"But I think it's bad for the whole community and the people that live here that's on a fixed income, and it seems like that we're being taken over by outsiders because they don't care about the local people anymore," Chestnut said.

Lone dissenting board member Ron Shifflett said Thursday the tax increase was too high, too soon. Shifflett agreed that while the county was experiencing economic hardship, tax raises should have come at a later date. He said he wanted the board to instead consider an alternative approach to working on the issue.

Shifflett said at Tuesday night's board meeting, the board decided to discuss the issue at the next board meeting July 14.

In the meantime, the Homestead told WDBJ7 it's working toward a June 29 reopening. When asked how the Homestead felt about the tax increase, a spokesperson for the resort stated they had no comment.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ7. All rights reserved.

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