Support gross receipts tax in Dewey Beach

July 19, 2013

Listening to the contentious discussion about the proposed gross receipts tax at the Dewey Beach town meeting Friday evening, July 12, I was particularly struck by the comments of two of the opponents of the GRT, a 1 percent to 3 percent tax on businesses that the Business and Finance Committee has recommended to the Town Council after almost a year of open deliberation.

One opponent who spoke on behalf of the business community said it was unfair to tax businesses just because they're successful. A second said that Dewey business owners would not engage in discussions about any new tax unless it were tied to an additional tax on some other town stakeholder. (It should be noted that if Highway One's recent suit against the town challenging the legality of the license fee and asking for $1 million in refunds from past fees prevails, town finances will be crippled.)

I want to make two points in response to the opponents who spoke:

(1) Successful businesses in Dewey are to be applauded, but it is their very success that requires the town to provide augmented services to keep all of our visitors and residents safe and our town orderly. Our tiny Dewey Beach spends more than double the amount on its police force ($1.2 million) than does nearby Fenwick Island, a vacation resort town of roughly the same size as Dewey.

(2) Property owners who rent their homes already contribute $480,000 a year through license fees and a 3 percent accommodations tax, while businesses only contribute $150,000 from the license fees that are now under legal challenge. That 3 percent accommodations tax was initiated four years ago in advance of the business community paying its fair share. The revenue stream that the business owners talk about tying to is already in place.

It’s time for Dewey’s businesses to step up to the plate. Let’s get this before the voters in a September referendum and move forward to secure Dewey’s financial sustainability.

Elissa Feldman
Dewey Beach


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