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Supervisors to Vote on Meals Tax Referendum Tuesday

by Karen Goff — June 6, 2016 at 10:30 am 12 Comments

View from outdoor deck at Red's TableThe Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve on Tuesday the steps necessary to get a meals tax referendum on the ballot for November’s general election.

The supervisors are seeking to add a 4-percent meals tax because it will give the county an extra estimated $99 million annually. Seventy percent of that would go to Fairfax County Public Schools, which has faced budget constraints the last several years.

FCPS, which has nearly 200,000 students, received a transfer of just over $2 billion from the supervisors this spring. The county gives 52 percent of its budget to the schools.

The tax would be on restaurant meals, of course, but also prepared foods sold at grocery and convenience stores. Surrounding jurisdictions such as the towns of Herndon and Vienna, as well as Arlington and Alexandria, have meals taxes.

According to Virginia law, the referendum can only be added to the ballot by order from the county attorney, so Tuesday’s vote is actually a motion for that action. The supervisors have already held a public hearing, so this is an action-only item.

Here’s the supervisors’ full resolution:

For the purpose of reducing dependence on real estate taxes, shall the Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County, Virginia, be authorized to levy a tax on prepared food and beverages, otherwise known as a meals tax, as allowed by Virginia Code § 58.1-3833, at a rate not to exceed four percent (4%) of the amount charged for prepared food and beverages (which, based upon state law, is applicable only to sales outside of the town of Clifton, and towns of Herndon and Vienna that have already implemented a meals tax)?

The revenues generated shall be dedicated to the following purposes:

1. 70 percent of the revenues to Fairfax County Public Schools.

2. 30 percent of the revenues to County services, capital improvements and property tax relief.

The Resolution directs the County Attorney to provide certified copies of the adopted Resolution to the Circuit Court and to petition it to order the election as requested by the Board.

The law requires the Court to enter the order if the request is found to be in proper order. Upon entry of the order, the Clerk of Court is required to send a copy to the State Board of Elections.

The Fairfax County Electoral Board and General Registrar will then prepare the ballots in time to make them available to voters beginning with absentee voting on September 23, 2016. After the referendum election, the Secretary of Fairfax County’s Electoral Board will certify the results of the election to the State Board of Elections and to the Circuit Court.

If a majority of voters vote in favor of the question, then the referendum has passed and the Circuit Court will enter a final order to that effect. The Board of Supervisors would then need to adopt an ordinance establishing the meals tax, subject to the same public notice and hearing requirements applicable to the adoption of any ordinance imposing taxes. It is anticipated that this action would be taken by the Board in early 2017.

County documents say holding the referendum will cost $105,000, mostly for printed materials to be distributed to Fairfax County households.

There have already been advocacy groups formed on both sides of the issue, Expect to hear more from them in coming months.

If passed by voters on Nov. 8, the meals tax would go into effect July 1, 2017.

A meals tax question last was on the ballot in Fairfax County in 1992. It failed.

Photo: Red’s Table at South Lakes Village Center/file photo

  • Perfect timing

    So Ffx Cty Attorney Bobzien had plans to retire in June, will that be his parting gift to the taxpayers in VA?

  • LaureenMT

    We need to find another revenue source to support our schools and social services, and many surrounding areas already have a meals tax. With a 4% meals tax, we would gain revenue from county residents AND from others who eat at restaurants in our county (estimated to be about 30% of the projected revenue). Fairfax County should approve this!

    • Mike M

      Now, Laureen. If Billy and Sally jumped off a bridge, does that mean we too should jump off a bridge? The logic of everyone else is doing it doesn’t add to the debate. On your other point, WHY do we need to get more money for our schools and social services? If you want more money from me, shouldn’t you say why? Finally, it is really ethical to pop our visitors with a tax to cover our schools? Do you work for the FCPS?

    • Chuck Morningwood

      We don’t need a meals tax, Laureen. That missing tax gives our area restaurants a competitive advantage, which means more diners here than in places with the tax.

      Frankly, I think the Supervisors should figure out how to trim the budget instead of finding new ways to “enhance” revenue on my back. What’s next? And additional tax at the grocery store?

    • LaureenMT

      My children attended FCPS, and Fairfax County attracts businesses in part due to our excellent schools. FCPS has already cut the budget substantially, spending $1,000 LESS per pupil now than in 2008. It is time to adopt the same revenue source that is used in Fairfax City, Arlington, Herndon, and other areas. I do not see their restaurants suffering from their 4% meals tax.

      • Mike M

        We don’t need to throw more money at an already bloated school system. But thanks for calling this tax increase for FCPS what it is. Most proponents are not so honest.

        Does the Fairfax County taxpayer owe the same level of education to anyone who can’t get here from anywhere in the world, legally or illegally? Can we really afford that? Is that sustainable? Mind you that the fees at school in addition to my property taxes are covering the costs of others who do not pay. Can we discuss the $1K less per pupil in terms of the population growth and break that down and look at the decisions that bring in new students? Note too that the School system has a massive swarm of volunteer labor at its disposal.

        Still, they cry, “mo, mo, mo!”

    • Greg

      No, ma’am. We don’t have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem.

  • susie

    All this tax means is that the makers have to pay more so the takers (I couldn’t use the real name 🙂 ) can have more free stuff.

    There is no reason a county as wealthy as Fairfax has a school district that is constantly broke.

  • Greg

    Vote NO on the meals tax.

  • Josh

    All of our neighbors do this and it does not hurt business. Let’s fund our schools and services now, so we don’t have to pay a price later. I’m for this proposal.

    • susie

      They will just keep coming back for more…

    • Greg

      There’s no stipulation that a penny of the meals tax will be used for schools or anything else. Moreover, FCPS’s public relations staff and social media accounts are being used in attempts to boil complicated discussion down to misleading statements. For example, the statement, “we have cut the budget every year for the last nine years” is misleading because the FCPS budget has in fact grown 25% over 9 years from $2.1 to $2.6B and student population during the same period has grown only 13% over the same period.

      In 2001, the school system (following the County’s lead) added a second pension plan which now costs $76M per year and represents over 5% of total compensation. This significantly reduces the funding available for teacher salary increases. The second pension plan also encourages our experienced teachers to retire in their 50’s and does little to attract the best and brightest of today’s young millennial teachers.

      Today, our kindergarten classes are over 35% free and reduced lunch (the vast majority free) and over 35% English as a second language. The Federal Government has failed to provide additional funding to offset the costs associated with educating approximately 1,100 unaccompanied minors that entered the county in 2014, despite both the School Board and Board of Supervisors passing resolutions requesting assistance. The County needs to take a closer look at how we have contributed to this demographic shift.

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