Will Fairfax County Get a Meals Tax?

Sharon Bulova/File photoFairfax County Supervisor Sharon Bulova has established a tax force to examine whether a county meals tax could be a reliable source of revenue.

If adopted at the same approximate rate as cities and towns in Northern Virginia, the rate would be 4 percent of the cost of a restaurant meal and would result in revenue of approximately $88 million, Bulova said.

“There has been a growing sentiment during recent years for our board to once again allow the voters to decide whether or not they wish to avail themselves of this additional source of revenue,” Bulova said in a statement.  “Reasons for urging this include the desire to diversify the revenues we have available to fund schools, public safety, parks, libraries and human services.”

The task force will be led by former Board of Supervisors chairs Tom Davis and Kate Hanley, who will report back to Bulova by June 17. It will be made up of members of two dozen county organizations, including Republican and Democratic parties, the county Chamber of Commerce, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, Visit Fairfax, the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance and the Fairfax Education Association.

The task force will be asked not only to recommend, or reject, a meals tax referendum, but also to suggest what year the question should be asked and how the resulting revenues should be used

The mission of the task force will be to recommend to the Board of Supervisors whether or not to proceed with a referendum for a meals tax; if it is the recommendation of the group to do so, the task force should recommend the timing (what year?) for the question to be put to voters; and the task force should return with a recommendation for how revenue from a meals tax should be used.

In Virginia, towns and cities are permitted to have a meals tax subject to a vote by the governing body. In Northern Virginia, all of the cities and towns around and within Fairfax County have adopted a meals tax. Counties may establish a meals tax only if a referendum is approved by the voters.

The last time the question was put to Fairfax County voters was 1992. It failed.

On Tuesday, the Supervisors approved a half-cent increase per $100 in the real estate tax. That will result in an additional $10.9 million annually for the county.

Photo: Supervisor Sharon Bulova/File photo

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