Town finds tourism up for 2010

After shrinking for three years, Washington’s tourism-fueled tax receipts are growing again.

At the Town Council’s regular monthly meeting Monday, Mayor John Sullivan reported that the town’s meals and lodging tax revenue grew by 18 percent in the last quarter of 2010 (compared to the same period in 2009).

While the most growth came in these last three months of 2010, he said, the period from April to December 2010 saw a 12 percent increase in meals and lodging tax income.

“Things are beginning to turn back upward,” said Sullivan, after acknowledging that economic times were still tough for many. “People seem to be traveling more.”

The mayor projected that Washington will receive a total of $245,000 for the fiscal year 2010-2011 (the town’s fiscal year is July to June). Washington’s receipts for calendar year 2009 were $211,072, down from $254,318 in 2008. Sullivan said virtually all of Washington’s operating expenses are paid from meals and lodging tax revenue.

The tax is 2.5 percent of lodging and meals sales in the town — which is, of course, the home of the Inn at Little Washington, consistently rated among the best restaurants in the world since shortly after it opened in 1978. Because of that, and a centuries-old concentration of inns and restaurants within the town’s borders, Washington’s meals-and-lodging income is generally twice what the rest of the county collects in similar taxes.

Revenue from Rappahannock County’s meals and lodging tax has increased “slightly,” County Administrator John McCarthy said this week. He said the county took in about $64,000 in the last half of 2010 (the first half of its fiscal year). County tax income totaled about $123,000 in the fiscal year from June 30, 2009 to July 1, 2010, he said.

(For the county’s tax, bed and breakfast establishments are taxed at 4 percent of the total bill, as are food and beverage sales. There is a 2 percent lodging-only tax.)

Streetlights, wastewater, budget

In other council business, Sullivan reported that the Rappahannock Hospitality and Visitors Association (RHVA) had agreed to continue sponsoring the Christmas in Little Washington parade and related events. The group is asking the town to help with volunteer assistance, he said.

Sullivan also updated council members Gene Leggett, Jerry Goebel, Mary Ann Kuhn, Patrick O’Connell and Gary Schwartz on progress to repair malfunctioning streetlights, which flicker or turn off for no apparent reason. Accompanied by town clerk Laura Dodd, Sullivan said, he met with Rappahannock Electric Cooperative’s (REC) district director and other REC representatives.

REC was supportive, “as opposed to saying it’s someone else’s problem,” said Sullivan.

The next step is for residents to tell Dodd which streetlights are not working well, and REC will examine them. The device which controls the streetlights is also to be checked, he said.

The wastewater treatment facility got a clean bill of health in the January inspection by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Sullivan said.

The warranty on the wastewater treatment equipment expires April 16. Schwartz reported that repairs have been made as needed.
The Planning Commission did not meet in February, Schwartz reported, and he anticipates the March 28 meeting will be canceled for the same reason, that being no business to consider.

The council was told that weather prompted cancellation of the Architecture Review Board’s March meeting, at which Rappahannock County Administrator John McCarthy was scheduled to talk about maintenance procedures of properties. ARB chairman Kevin Adams reported that McCarthy will make the presentation at the board’s next meeting April 7.

The meeting concluded with a beginning — to construct a 2011-2012 budget. Sullivan set the goal of having a final vote on the budget at the council’s June meeting. Public comment will be heard during the May meeting. Council members agreed to gather for a work session April 8 at 1 p.m. The public is welcome to observe.

The budget will also be an agenda item for the council’s next regular meeting, which the council agreed to rescheduled to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, instead of the usual Monday.

About Alisa Booze Troetschel 30 Articles
By some folks' standards, Alisa Booze Troetschel is a newcomer. She moved to northwest Virginia two years ago after completing graduate studies at the Missouri School of Journalism. She has photographed, written and edited for local, regional and national magazines and newspapers, while delighting in the beauty surrounding her new home.