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Weekend Discussion Topic: What About a Meals Tax ?

by Karen Goff April 22, 2016 at 3:10 pm 40 Comments

Ted's Bulletin at Reston Town CenterFor the second time in two years, Fairfax County Supervisors are considering a meals tax referendum.

Adding a 4-percent meals tax could give the county (and its services and public schools) an additional $90 million annually.

The idea, which the supervisors will discuss at their April 26 meeting, was last discussed in 2014, when county officials were looking at a strained budget. Ultimately, a task force examined the idea, but the supervisors decided not to hold a referendum. County residents last voted on the idea in 1992. It failed.

But times have changed. Aftereffects of the recession that began in 2008 have left home values flat as the county population and need for services has grown, putting the county budget in an annual battle, supervisors say.

The supervisors are likely to approve next week the $3.99 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2017. That budget will include a tax rate rise of 4 cents per $100 of home value, or about $303 for the average Fairfax County homeowner. The county will give about $2 billion to Fairfax County Public Schools.

Most surrounding jurisdictions, including Arlington, Alexandria and the towns of Herndon and Vienna, and the District of Columbia have a meals tax. Does that prevent you from eating in restaurants in those locations?

Meanwhile, grassroots efforts have popped up on both sides of the issue. Several local restaurant groups are against the idea, while many school board members and school advocates say diversifying the tax base is the only way to stave off cuts to services.

What do you say?

Ted’s Bulletin at Reston Town Center/file photo

  • Enough with the alarmism

    We’re not in a recession, and haven’t been for seven years.

    • Ming the Merciless

      And all our problems are Bush’s fault anyway.

      • cRAzy

        …and we’re talkin’ “HW”, not “W”!

      • Chuck Morningwood

        If the shoe fits…

  • Chuck Morningwood

    What do I think about a “Meals Tax”? It’s arbitrary.

    Why not have an Underwear Tax as well? Every day you put on clean Underoos, you drop a nickel in the can, and then send that off to the BoS.

    If the BoS is going to tax us, then please just send me one bill instead of nickel and diming me, hoping that I won’t notice.

    • Mike M

      Underwear tax is on the way.

    • Mookie Taylor

      First, they do have an underwear tax. But they call it sales tax. Second, it is not arbitrary, it is a tax on a luxury. If you don’t want to pay it, don’t eat out.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    “Most surrounding jurisdictions, including Arlington, Alexandria and the
    towns of Herndon and Vienna, and the District of Columbia have a meals
    tax. Does that prevent you from eating in restaurants in those
    locations?”

    Yes, it does. And it does so in an insidious fashion. I don’t think explicitly “Well, ToH has a 10% tax, so I’m not eating there today.” Instead, it’s more like, “All of my money has gone to pay taxes, so I can’t afford to eat out today.”

    • June Smith

      Boston Properties is using the same “justification” to charge for parking at the Reston Town Center.

      • Chuck Morningwood

        I”m sure my thought process on that would be more direct. I won’t pay to shop at RTC while there are free parking alternatives. Taxes, however, you can’t avoid, or at least not easily.

        • June Smith

          I’ve seen Fairfax County taxpayers (homeowners) stand up in unison against the Supervisors when they tried to impose a tax hike – without first looking for cuts ….. and the Supervisors backed down.

          The Supervisors approved millions of dollars in funding for programs that benefit illegal aliens and their children. They even approved funding to enroll them in Kaiser for health care (so they wouldn’t clog the ERs) – at the taxpayers expense.

          There is a still a $700,000 line item in the budget to fund day labor centers – that is being reallocated to Cornerstones (formerly Reston Interfaith) for programs for illegal aliens.

          Until the Supervisors ensure all budget allocations are for Citizens and legal immigrants ONLY – and no funding is allocated for illegal aliens and their children – only then do they have the right to increase taxes.

    • NopeI Never knew that I had to pay an extra tax to eat at the Vienna Inn. But now that I know I still stopped by there today.

  • LaureenMT

    If that’s what it takes to fully fund our schools, I would be happy to join Herndon, Fairfax, Falls Church, and many other local areas in paying a small tax on meals eaten out.

    • Mel

      Agreed. The real estate tax isn’t cutting it in light of the growth in Fairfax County schools. Also, the meals tax is a way to collect tax revenues from people that work in Fairfax but live somewhere else.

      • susie

        The problem is the “growth” aren’t paying their fair share.

        • June Smith

          The illegal aliens are not paying their fair share .. they are the ones dragging down our schools with additional costs for ESL teachers – before and after school day care and free meals.

          Stop subsidizing the illegal aliens and put that money into program for Citizens and LEGAL immigrants.

          FYI: Fairfax County still has a $700,000 line item in the budget for Day Labor Centers for illegal aliens

      • Mike M

        Perhaps the “managers” of the money are not cutting it.

    • Mike M

      Perhaps you have more money than brains?

  • susie

    Can’t wait for Pres Trump to outlaw all these sanctuary counties/cities. Will no longer need the “meals” tax.

    • east297

      Amen…

    • Perhaps instead of meals tax or raising the real estate tax it would be better to raise the sales tax by one percent targeted toward the schools. This way everyone including immigrants will be paying into the schools fund and we can moderate real estate taxes?

      • susie

        First, we have to eliminate Fairfax County’s policy of enabling our immigration laws to be broken. Once our immigration laws are enforced in this county, we can reevaluate the need for additional taxes.

  • June Smith

    Stop subsidizing the illegal aliens and you will meet the short fall with money to spare.

  • Been eating quite a bit in Herndon. Did not know they had a special tax.Guess I will have to stop and eat out more in Reston.
    And I cannot go to the Vienna Inn again I guess.
    Times are getting tough.

    • Mike M

      So I should pay because you are ignorant?

      • Guess that I should cut back on my tip when I eat out in Herndon. But those who never tip that is not an option.

        • But a severe recession is coming just around the corner and then Hil or Don will have to fix it…if they can.

      • I have been paying $15.38 for 2 double cheese burgers at Fivie Guys at Plaza A and now I realize there is a 93 cents tax added on making two cheese burgers at 5Guys $16.31 total cost??? WOW!! So without a food tax I am paying big taxes on food right here in Reston.
        No wonder Five Guys closed up shop in Herndon with all those taxes.

        • Guest

          If the burgers were better, instead of those burnt hockey pucks they are used to serving, Five Guys would be doing better. They have too many outlets and the food qaulity varies form store to store.

          • They seem to be doing a great business here in Reston. Maybe it is because they do not have to charge a food tax in Reston. People from Herndon can save 25 cennts on a $6 burger by coming to Reston rather than buying it in Herndon.
            And change is coming to Reston as the demographic change will be enormous in the next five years..

  • Melissa Gifford

    Yes – I would be willing to pay a meals tax. Fairfax county currently has one source of revenue – real estate taxes. Diversifying revenue sources (as much as is allowable by statute) reduces risk and allocates the revenue burden across a wider segment of the population. Why should homeowners bear 100% of the burden for county-generated revenue? Why not share the responsibility with visitors and renters who live in the county and also utilize the funded services?

    • Mike M

      So lower the Real Estate tax, or you are OK with any “diversified” meals tax?

      • Melissa Gifford

        An independent audit of Fairfax County identified the fact that there is only one county-generated source of revenue as an area of concern. By Virginia statute, the only other option available to local jurisdictions is a local meals tax. That is what I meant by diversifying revenue – having more than one source. A meals tax will apply to all who purchase food in the county. An additional source of revenue could have a favorable impact on the real estate tax burden. As for the “school issue,” my review of the data leads me to a very different conclusion.

        • John Higgins

          Melissa, it’s nice to read some reasoned thought for a change. For the reasons you state, a meals tax might well be a reasonable alternative to real estate tax hikes that are surely in our future next year, Andy beyond. We can expect that three-quarters of it will go to schools, and I’m not real happy about that, but that’s a different discussion.

          In reference to an earlier comment, I suggest that everyone pays real estate tax, whether they own or rent. For a renter, it’s indirect and loses its identity as part of the lease, but one thing is certain – it’s in there.

          • Mike M

            Tax me! Tax me! Tax me, baby! I can’t get enough!

    • Chuck Morningwood

      Your reasoning is faulty, Melissa. ALL property in Fairfax County is taxed. Sure, renters may not pay the tax directly, but the owners of the rental property pay the tax, and pass that expense on in the form of rent. Ergo, renters pay RE taxes, just indirectly.

  • Mookie Taylor

    I was actually surprised to find out there isn’t a meals tax in Reston. I thought every place had meals taxes. I don’t object in principal, but it does seem unfair to people in Herndon and Vienna if they would have to have county and city meals tax. On the other hand, other places I’ve lived do not tax most grocery store food items, but Fairfax does.

    • June Smith

      Fairfax County has nothing to do with the meals taxes in Herndon and Vienna – both are Towns and generate revenue with local taxes to subsidize the funding they are given by the County.

      Both Vienna and Herndon are illegal alien sanctuary towns … they are over run by illegal aliens who are drawing $3 in resources (county and local) for every $1 they pay into the system.

  • Scott H

    $4Billion?????????
    There is no revenue issue. There is a spending issue. Trim the fat.

    Bottom line: when you tax something, you get less of it. A meals tax will reduce purchased meals by some %.

  • east297

    Just another reason for us to leave Fairfax Co…it is senior unfriendly. Bye bye!

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