Northampton institutes meals tax to give personal property tax relief

July 12, 2023

In an effort to give the citizens of the County relief on personal property taxes, on items such as vehicles, the Northampton County Board of Supervisors approved a 5% tax on prepared meals in the County.

In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed a bill repealing the requirement for a referendum by localities if they wanted to increase meals taxes, allowing the Board of Supervisors to do so with a simple majority vote.

“We want to use the revenue for increasing funding for the personal property relief fund,” said County Administrator Charlie Kolakowski. “This will help County residents with vehicle taxes.”

Kolakowski also said the bill will be revenue neutral, meaning it will not take in anymore than its cutting. The theory behind the move was approximately 40% of restaurant orders in Northampton are by folks “passing through”, meaning tourists. The expected $93,000 a year is hoped will ease the tax strain on the average Northampton County resident.

Only one person spoke in somewhat opposition to the measure, Cape Charles business owner Jon Dempster.

“We are already at 12% basically in Cape Charles. I’m on a weekly coaching call with 26 restaurant operators around the country, and I polled that group today and the next highest was at 10% in Washington DC. These are people from northern California, Seattle, Wisconsin, Los Angeles,” he said. “I’m not saying this shouldn’t go, but we did the 1% for the schools a year or two ago… I think what we are doing in the long run is we end up penalizing the locals. The people who come to Cape Charles on vacation don’t worry about a 1% – 2% tax, it’s the locals who go out in February.”

Before the vote, Supervisor Oliver Bennett asked Commissioner of Revenue Charlene Gray her opinion on the tax.

“We will pay it where ever we go,” she replied. “I would rather pay it locally in Northampton County.”

Dixon Leatherbury made the motion to adopt the new tax effective January 1 and Betsy Mapp seconded.

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