Fairfax County Citizens Will Vote on Meals Tax This Fall

by Karen Goff June 7, 2016 at 1:50 pm 38 Comments

Ted's Bulletin at Reston Town Center The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted 8-2 on Tuesday to add a meals tax referendum question to the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

They say they are now prepared for a real fight on both sides of the issue, but ultimately it will be up to Fairfax County voters whether the 4 percent tax gets implemented in summer 2017.

The addition of a meals tax has been discussed for years, but was last put to referendum in 1992, where it failed.

However, the county is continually finding itself in an annual budget crunch, particularly as the needs of Fairfax County Public Schools are growing. The board says it will allocate 70 percent of the nearly $100 million annual expected meals tax revenue to the schools, with the remainder going for county services.

About $3 million of the nearly $100 million in revenue would go to back to restaurants/businesses to offset costs of implementing the meals tax, the county says.

The supervisors’ transfer to the schools was $2 billion this year.

Several supervisors said prior to Tuesday’s vote that they would like to see more specifically what the schools will do with the money. Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, a proponent of the meals tax, made a motion to delay the vote until after a joint retreat with the school board, which is scheduled for next week. The motion failed.

Still, several supervisors said the schools need to show a good faith effort in how they spend the extra money. FCPS teacher pay continues to lag behind neighboring counties, and Supervisor John Cook (Braddock) said “we are at a tipping point on needing to bring teacher pay up to market.”

“If I hear [the schools] say they are spending the money on an elite, special program and not on teacher pay, then I will campaign against it,” said Cook. “I am not happy about a meals tax. I worry about local places without a liquor license and a high profit margin. But it is time to have a dialogue.”

Supervisor Pat Herrity (Springfield), who, along with Supervisor Linda Smyth (Providence) voted against the referendum, said Fairfax County property taxes have gone up 26 percent in the last five years and the county cannot keep asking citizens to pay. The supervisors voted this spring for an increase of 4 cents per $100 of home value.

The need to diversify the county revenue sources — and not keep raising real estate taxes — is one reason to be in favor of a meals tax, several other supervisors said.

Herrity also made a motion to clarify to voters that the 4-percent meals tax is in addition to a 6-percent sales tax diners already pay. That motion failed.

“I have talked to a lot of residents,” said Herrity. “The majority of them don’t understand [the rise will bring taxes] to 10 percent. We need to be clear to our residents what they are voting for.”

The board plans to print and distribute a voter’s guide in coming months to county residents.

The tax, should it pass, would be applicable to restaurant meals, as well as from food trucks and prepared foods from a store. Beverages that are poured would also be taxed. Bottled/canned beverages would be exempt.

Nearby areas that have a food tax include the City of Fairfax, the Town of Herndon, the Town of Vienna, and Alexandria and Arlington counties. The District of Columbia has a 10-percent meals tax.

Supervisor Chair Sharon Bulova said she does not think the typical Fairfax County diner decides where to eat based on taxes.

“When I go to Coastal Flats at Fairfax Corner, I do not pay a meals tax,” she said. “When I go to the Ice House Cafe in Herndon, I do. It does not make a difference to me. I think people make choices on where they feel like eating and do not much notice or make a decision based on [taxes].”

Still, Bulova said she will work with the local restaurant industry, which has already voiced opposition to the proposed measure.

“I hear the restaurants and their concerns,” she said. “Restaurants are our great corporate neighbors. I hope we are able to keep our heads [in the coming months]. This is not a fight against the restaurant industry.”

Photo: Ted’s Bulletin at Reston Town Center/File photo

  • Chuck Morningwood

    I’m hoping that a Meals Tax gets voted down. With that said, even if it gets voted up, how long do you think it will take before FCPS and the BoS comes hat in hand asking for a new revenue source?

    • Fairfax Watcher

      Dear Chuck, well said! History being a guide – the time will measured in nano-seconds!!
      The meals tax will not “solve” the spending problem the FCPS has – Jeff Mckay has it right when he reminded the BOS that 70 Million from the Meals Tax would not rescue the 2-Billion FCPS budget.
      Tax payers should demand to see the FCPS books – whatever happen to the auditor the FCPS was going to hire? Can one really imagine a government school system with NO $$ oversight? Well…that has been the case in Fairfax County!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Mike M

      My estimation is 13.5 seconds.

  • SM Chests fwd

    I wonder how Zac Efron got ripped but before I deep dive into the article let me just mention this was before the meal tax.

  • RoadApples

    Curious question?
    If my reading comprehension is correct per the article above: If this meals tax is enacted intact:
    A.) if I order a sassafras from a tap; I will indeed get: additional 4% tax added?
    B.) if I order a bottle/canned sassafras: no additional tax added/exempt?

    • Karen Goff


  • susie

    There was a posting on another site regarding the salaries of the admin staff at Gatehouse. Many are over 100K. I suspect some of this so-called “meals tax” will go into their pockets.

    We do not need any more taxes to support what in some regards is a criminally run school system – ignoring Federal laws is still considered criminal – at least if you’re not supporting Hillary.

    • troll troller

      I red summfing on de innernetz … FCPS is kriminlz! Vote Drumpf for King of Merica!

      • susie

        self portrait? Brilliant response to a major issue facing our country – illegal immigration. Also love how your posts always make it without any censoring.

      • Mike M

        How can I argue with that! Troll troller, you win the debate. Your position is clearly superior. You r position of course, is . . . ?

        (Ls always resort to name calling. If I posted something this obnoxious in response to an L, I’d be censored.)

    • Pro-Taxer

      The irony is that you demand that the schools enforce federal laws, but then don’t want to provide them the funds to do so.

      Also, what proof do you have to say that all these kids are “illegal” other than being sort of brown? Seriously, every time there is a post about school funding, your go-to response is “sanctuary city” (a BS term) and “illegal immigration,” yet you have literally NEVER provided any proof that either of these things are the case.

      • Chuck Morningwood

        There’s a simple way to solve this, but nobody wants to go there: require proof of citizenship — any citizenship — before allowing a parent/guardian to register a child. It’s not illegal/unconstitutional because no child is being denied an education. Yet, nobody is going to do it because everybody knows the statistics that would come out of it would be politically uncomfortable.

        • Pro-Taxer

          Just FYI, it is clear under Supreme Court precedent that the Constitution also applies to non-citizens. Your solution just imposes additional costs on the system without any gains.

          It wouldn’t be “politically uncomfortable,” except for you guys who clearly have a hard on for immigrant hate. It is literally unconstitutional.

          • Greg

            Immigrant hate? Sorry and no, it’s people/aliens/whatever you call them that are here illegally that are at issue.

          • Pro-Taxer

            Actually, “people/ aliens/ whatever” aren’t at issue, since, as I just said, the constitution still applies to them. Besides, requiring “citizenship” means they must be a citizen, but not all immigrants are citizens. Some are just residents.

          • Greg

            Of course they are the issue. Also, please read up on what’s legal and illegal regarding immigration and hate — including the parts of the constitution and applicable case law.

          • susie

            The constitution doesn’t apply to the world. Everyone doesn’t have a right to come here.

          • Greg

            Where is your citation on the SCOTUS precedent?

          • Mike M

            So, the Constitution provides “rights” for anyone who comes here and squat? Even if against the laws of the United States. Sorry but that is wrong.

          • Mike M

            Ugh! The Constitution does not say that we have to educate everyone who shows up here.

        • susie

          Why is enforcing our laws “politically uncomfortable”? When did we become so weak that we would allow our hard earned money to be stolen? I get what you’re saying and of course it should be happening. However, there is no reason to cower when the thieves become agitated.

      • Greg

        We know (as in it’s a fact) that at least 1100 unaccompanied minors arrived illegally in Fairfax County in 2014 alone. No questions asked; they get lots of free stuff, including education and food.

    • Greg

      As of 2013, there are 953 county employees making more than $100k.

      More than 1853 make more than $90,m and none of these salaries include benefits, pensions or bonuses.

  • Mookie Taylor

    Karen, can you please reconcile these statements: 1. Herrity also made a motion to clarify to voters that the 4-percent meals
    tax is in addition to a 6-percent sales tax diners already pay. 2. “When I go to Coastal Flats at Fairfax Corner, I do not pay a meals tax,” she said.
    Does Herrity mean that those towns that already have a meal tax (Herndon, etc.) will have a 10% tax, but other places (Reston?) will only have 4%?

    • Greg

      That’s why he moved as he did. It’s an additional tax above the existing 6% on all county entities not in the towns and city. That is, the tax will not be 14% in Herndon.

      As an aside, that big salary boost Sharon voted for herself allows her to dine high on the hog and some fancy expensive places. It must be nice.

    • Mookie Taylor

      From today’s article I understand that there is already a 6% sales tax on food bought at restaurants. I think this should be made clear to voters. To just say there is no meal tax currently is disingenuous, in my opinion. You are paying a tax on your meal, they just call it a sales tax instead of a meals tax. 10% tax on food is a bit extreme, in my opinion.

  • Mookie Taylor

    Second question: Is it true that “Fairfax County property taxes have gone up 26 percent in the last five years”.

    • Greg

      Yes it is true.

    • John Higgins

      The answer is: No; Maybe
      Real estate tax is computed for each property: assessed value X rate = tax
      The rate for 2017 is $1.13 per $100 of value.
      Five years ago it was $1.09. That’s just under a 4% increase over five years.
      (The rate wass 2004 was $1.13, so be cafefull to understand why someone selects a base year for comparison.)

      Ah, but how much did your actual tax go up? That’s the “maybe” part of the answer. If the value of your home went up 25% in five years, then you will see a similar increase in the tax you pay.



  • 100% guarantee or money back

    The experts have repeatedly raised issue with school budget saying that it is over not underfunded. Further, recent school construction projects rely on bizarre architecture effects, while some communities continue to operate their classrooms out of makeshift trailers. In the meantime most churches sit empty Monday to Friday while most “believers” call out the local government for overspending. Crazy stuff if you ask me.

    Gor starters, I think we should introduce drug testing for all county employees, top down – three strikes you re out. Second offense, no pension. Firstly offense, your picture hangs in front of the facility you work at. No exceptions.

    Next, we can talk about customer service.

    Follow this and Ffx Cty will prosper.

  • highlander492

    Does anyone know if in the towns that currently charge a meal tax like Herndon and Vienna..will this be added to that or does this only cover areas not within incorporated towns…could there be a double tax in some instances?

    • Karen Goff

      No. There will not be a double tax. This will be for unincorporated areas of the county only, not the places that already heave meals tax.

      • Greg

        That’ what I understood, too. However, it raises an interesting question. Do those residing in the incorporated areas of the county get to vote on the matter for the rest of us?

      • VieDeMon

        Karen, if this passes – is it fair to say towns already incorporated are directing their meal tax income going to their specific purposes WHILE also BENEFTING from the taxes collected by unincorporated towns – i.e. for fcps schools?


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