Norment revives sales tax bill

Published 1:19 pm Thursday, January 20, 2022

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State Sen. Tommy Norment (R-Williamsburg) has reintroduced a bill that would add Isle of Wight County to the list of localities authorized to impose an extra 1% sales tax to pay for new schools.

Norment pre-filed the proposed legislation, Senate Bill 37, in December. The bill has been referred to the Senate’s committee on finance and appropriations.

Norment had previously proposed the legislation in 2021, which passed the Senate but stalled in a House of Delegates subcommittee.

Isle of Wight officials had hoped to use the resulting revenue in lieu of raising real estate taxes to fund the replacement of the county’s Hardy and Westside elementary schools.

The county had borrowed $34 million in 2020, budgeting $27 million for the Hardy project, but inflation and a pandemic-induced supply chain breakdown drove the cost to $36.8 million last year — resulting in a nearly $10 million gap in available funds. The cost of supplying water to the new school and the surrounding area also increased from a 2020 estimate of $2.2 million to roughly $4.8 million as of December.

As a result, Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors have scheduled a Jan. 20 public hearing on whether to borrow an additional $19 million for Hardy and other capital needs. The move would effectively defund and postpone the county’s plans for Westside, unless another revenue source is found.

Last year, Isle of Wight officials estimated the sales tax hike would bring in an additional $2.3 million annually. Should this year’s bill pass, Isle of Wight voters would need to approve the sales tax increase via a referendum for it to take effect.