Dewey must explore all tax options
As a Lewes native and a home owner in Dewey Beach, I felt compelled to respond to the letter submitted by Carrie Leishman, CEO/president of the Delaware Restaurant Association. While I agree with certain points in her letter, I take exception to Ms. Leishman's assertion that Dewey government officials should be criticized for considering a gross receipts tax on businesses in town because Dewey property owners "willingly flocked to the seasonal hotspot over its quieter neighbors in Lewes or Bethany Beach" and because many "iconic Dewey venues have been around much longer than their complaining residential neighbors."
Basically, she is telling all Dewey property owners that you purchased property knowing the problems facing the town and that it would be unfair for your elected officials to now consider a new tax on businesses to help resolve the issues. I have a real problem with someone claiming that the town in which I own property should not consider a new tax affecting certain establishments in town because they are "iconic." If that makes me a "complaining residential neighbor," then so be it.
Ms. Leishman's position ignores the reality in Dewey Beach - a significant portion of the town's budget goes toward dealing with the adverse effects (unruly behavior/public drunkenness/vandalism) caused by patrons of certain establishments. Given this drain on the town's funds, I believe it is equitable to ask those businesses, through a new tax, to cover a larger portion of the Dewey's budget. Those who place an inordinate amount of strain on the town's resources should pay for their respective share of the town's operating expenses. Having said that, I am mindful that a gross receipts tax would place an unfair burden on those businesses in town whose customers do not cause problems. Unfortunately, there seems to be no clean solution.
I agree with Ms. Leishman's concern that new taxes may be shifted to local employees and tourists (making them less likely to come to town due to higher prices). However, given the harsh financial reality facing the town, the hardship of finding new sources of income for the town will need to be borne by several groups, not just Dewey home owners. I also believe it is time for the town to seriously explore a reasonable property tax to cover part of the town's revenue shortfall. It is not fair to ask the business owners and their employees to be the only ones to sacrifice.
I chose to buy a house in Dewey Beach because of the beautiful beaches and lively nightlife. The last thing I would want would be for Dewey to lose its unique atmosphere. But, all options need to be explored to keep the town afloat financially, including new taxes on local businesses. Hopefully, the people of Dewey Beach will keep an open mind and find a solution everyone can live with.