Council discusses more tax relief provisions

Meg Hibbert Contributing writer

Taking into consideration tightened purse strings due to economic impact of the pandemic, Salem City Council discussed possibilities of more tax relief for residents and businesses.

In April, Council passed an ordinance on an emergency basis to extend personal property and business tangible property tax payment due dates until June 30 instead of May 31. The new deadline is also for Food and Beverage taxes, and transient occupancy taxes.

On May 11, Councilmembers talked about the potential of eliminating late fees for individual cases. Currently, the penalties are 10 percent of the principal and 10 percent of the interest.

No decision was reached. Council plans to talk about specifics at the second meeting in May, and could pass the changes in June. City Attorney Steve Host explained, “Council could set penalties at zero percent, if desired. You need to put an ending date. Other jurisdictions have put that at the end of July or August.”

Councilman Bill Jones brought up the idea at the end of the meeting, which concluded at 8:11 p.m.

Starting in June, Council meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m. each week instead of the current 7:30 p.m. in order to have the Work Session and, once a month, 15 minutes for citizens to address Council, to give them more participation which citizens have been requesting.

“I think it is the right thing to do,” said Vice Mayor Jane Johnson.

Other items by Council Monday night were:

  • Passing a request of support from Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge to ask the Virginia Department of Transportation to find money to light I-81 interchanges in Salem and Roanoke. Those would be Exits 137, 140, 141, 143, 146 and 150. The idea behind the request, City Manager Jay Taliaferro explained, is “to get people off the interstate,” and into the communities. “Interchanges are more inviting if they are lighted.”
  • Approving a $10,000 donation from Degeller Attractions from proceeds of last year’s Salem Fair to be used to install handrails at the football stadium, and $6,300 to purchase warm-weather uniforms for Salem Police.
  • Approving a request to appropriate $41,567 to cover Salem EMS expenses due to the pandemic. Those include items from CARES Act funding such as gowns, face shields, new medicines related to COVID 19 cases and related overtime, Taliaferro explained. CARES stands for Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security.
  • Approving a request for $72,642 to lease technology firewall equipment. The money is being transferred to the Debt Service Fund.

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