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Jimmy Franklin at Hope Springs Marina says a 'crushing' Stafford boat tax is chasing off his customers.
PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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BY KATIE THISDELL
Jimmy Franklin wondered why every year it seemed like more and more boats were leaving his Hope Springs Marina.
A waiting list used to be the only way boat owners could secure one of the 180 slips at the marina on Aquia Creek, which can store up to 500 boats. But that list is long gone, despite a recently constructed clubhouse, and the boats that are stored have gotten smaller, said Franklin, the managing partner.
Customers told him that the only thing wrong was out of his control: His marina is in Stafford, also known as "the county with the big boat tax."
The personal property tax rate on boats in Stafford is the highest of six counties in the region with water access, including Fairfax and Prince William. Each boat is assessed at $5.49 per $100 of boat value, based on 40 percent of its market value, according to Commissioner of Revenue Scott Mayausky. That means the rate comes to about $2.20 per $100 of boat value, more than twice the rate on land and houses.
"Hope Springs Marina will never be able to compare to Prince William County Marina, as long as this crushing tax is in place," Franklin told Stafford's Board of Supervisors recently. He was joined by several others in the boat industry who say business would improve if the tax was erased.
After years of discussions, the Board of Supervisors may make 2013 the year of the boat.
State code prohibits removing the tax altogether, but the county could reduce it to a fraction of a penny, essentially making the tax null on everything except million-dollar crafts. The board has asked for an impact analysis of such a reduction. The final decisions for the fiscal 2014 budget and tax rates typically come in late spring, following public hearings on both.
Supervisors plan to study three scenarios for the personal property tax on boats: reducing it to nearly nothing, implementing a three-year phaseout or keeping it as is.
If eliminated, the county could lose at least $500,000 in revenue for the general fund. But marina owners say the increase in business would make up for that. Mayausky is doing an internal study to assess that claim.