The task force report was given to the supervisors earlier this week. The task force is comprised of former Board of Supervisors chairs Tom Davis and Kate Hanley, as well as 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 group was assembled in April by Supervisor Chair Sharon Bulova with this mission: 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.
It is estimated that a county meals tax similar to the ones in Fairfax City and Vienna (4 percent) could result in $88 million annually for Fairfax County.
While the task force weighed the pros and cons of a meals tax, it did not recommend whether there should be a referendum or how the money should be spent. Instead, that decision will be up to the Supervisors, who deferred action until the report could be read more thoroughly.
“I am disappointed that the Board of Supervisors has chosen only to accept the report, and is not moving forward at this time,” Hudgins said in an email to Hunter Mill residents. “Hopefully, after a thorough reading by each member, the Board of Supervisors will decide to further explore this option of diversifying our revenue, as have 47 counties and 104 towns in Virginia levied in tax year 2013.
Pros included: The county needs the revenue; 28 percent of the taxes would come from non-county residents; and diversifying the tax base could have a positive effect on commercial land owners, among others.
Among the cons: The county populace is already overtaxed and the county should manage its money more effectively; the food tax unfairly targets the food service industry; Fairfax restaurants could actually lose business to Loudoun and Prince William counties, where there is no food tax; and the referendum itself will cost money, even if it ultimately fails.
The report also looked at when in the next three election years to hold the referendum and some of the possible areas in which the money could help the county. See the full report on the Fairfax County website.
A meals tax proposal went to a Fairfax County voter referendum in 1992, where it failed.
Photo courtesy of PassionFish