Martha’s Vineyard Commission executive director Adam Turner gave Edgartown selectmen a briefing on a short-term rental tax bill that is expected to pass in January.
If approved, House bill 4841, An Act Regulating and Insuring Short-Term Rentals, would give towns a local option on short-term rentals. Towns would have the authority to put up to a 6 percent tax on people who rent their houses for less than 30 days. Whether the Island towns decide to add the tax, the state will take an additional 5 percent cut, Turner said.
Turner believes the bill will pass, saying short-term rental businesses such as Airbnb are a “significant” part of the bill. “This is probably going to happen,” Turner said. “It will impact the town greatly.”
The bill is expected to be one of the first items state legislators work on in January. If the bill passes, it would not go into effect until 2020.
The town would have to complete a state-mandated inspection and registration on all short-term rental units, which Turner estimates to be around 4,000, to meet state requirements such as insurance and smoke alarms. For 1,800 seasonal weekly units rented at $3,000 a week for nine weeks, Turner estimated the town could collect close to $3 million annually if the 6 percent tax was authorized. “It’s going to be in the millions,” he said.
Turner also thanked state Rep. Dylan Fernandes and Sen. Julian Cyr for their efforts to allow the Cape and Islands to opt in to an additional 2.75 percent tax on top of the 6 percent tax that would go toward a Cape Cod and Islands Water Protection Fund to create wastewater management systems to clean up nitrogen pollution. Cape Cod towns are legally required to create wastewater management systems due to a 2011 lawsuit filed by the Conservation Law Foundation. The tax will be applied equally to short-term rentals and traditional lodging in Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket counties.
Currently, the town collects a 4 percent tax from hotels — the 6 percent and 2.75 percent tax would be an expansion of that.
In other business, Edgartown School Principal John Stevens asked the town to accept a $8,000 donation from an anonymous family for the school garden program. The donation would supplement the salary of the garden coordinator.
Selectmen unanimously agreed to accept the donation. Selectman Margaret Serpa asked Stevens to extend a thank-you to the family.
“This family has given us this donation in years past, and continues to do so. They really believe in the Island Grown Initiative and the school garden program at the Edgartown School, and we very much appreciate it,” Stevens said.