85°Partly Cloudy

Food Fight: New Groups Taking Sides in Battle for Fairfax Meals Tax

by Karen Goff — September 12, 2016 at 10:30 am 22 Comments

Jackson's Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge (Photo via Flickr/dad)As Fairfax County residents are receiving a meals tax fact sheet in the mail, advocates on both sides of the issue are organizing for a battle this fall.

The meals tax referendum will be on the Fairfax County general election ballot on Nov. 8. It’s the first time since 1992 that voters will get a say on whether the county will add a meals tax to diversify its tax base. The 1992 referendum failed, and while the topic has been brought up nearly annually in recent recent years, it has not been presented to the voters.

The 4-percent meals tax would add about $100 million to county coffers annually, according to the fact sheet. About 70 percent would go back to Fairfax County Public Schools. The other 30 percent would go to county programs and services.

The 4-percent tax would be in addition to a 6-percent sales tax. Nearby jurisdictions such as the District of Columbia, Arlington and Alexandria have a meals tax, as do towns of Vienna, Herndon, Clifton, Falls Church and Fairfax City (those towns’ rates would stay the same; diners would not pay an additional county tax).

Not surprisingly, many school board members and civic groups fall in favor of the tax, while many restaurant owners are against it.

The food tax foes have organized into a new group called Fairfax Families Against the Food Tax.

Fairfax Families Against the Food Tax says it has about 1,500 individuals, as well as a host of businesses behind it. Included in the businesses are Reston restaurants American Tap Room; Be Right Burger; Clyde’s; Glory Days Grill; the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce; Hyatt Regency Reston; Jackson’s; and Silver Diner.

The group says the 4-percent tax on top of the 6-percent sales tax for all prepared foods and ready-to-eat meals from restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, gas stations, food trucks, hot dog stands, coffee shops, pizza delivery, and hotel food will be too much burden on some customers.

“This isn’t just a meals tax,” Jon Norton, Partner at Great American Restaurants (which includes Jackson’s), said in a statement. “In reality, it’s much broader than that because it adds an extra tax on people and families who are trying to buy prepared food items or even dine out as a family at their favorite restaurant. This really is a food tax.”

Coalition members say the tax will hit low- and middle-income people hardest. That’s a group that also relies heavily on prepared foods as they deal with demanding work schedules.

Meanwhile, proponents of the meals tax have organized Invest in Fairfax. Invest in Fairfax is embarking on a Vote Yes Meals Tax campaign.

The group says this is a crucial time for Fairfax County Public Schools.

“For just a few pennies more, we can support our kids, keep our community safe and vibrant, and relieve homeowners,” said Kimberly Adams, president of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs and a Vote Yes Meals Tax campaign chair. “We’re asking voters to get informed, get involved, and get out to vote.”

Backing Invest in Fairfax are the Arts Council of Fairfax County; Fairfax County Council of PTAs; Fairfax County Federation of Teachers; Fairfax County Professional Firefighters & Paramedics; Fairfax Education Association; and the League of Women Voters, among others.

David Edelman, chair of Invest in Fairfax, calls the meals tax a “win-win for everyone in our community” as it will stop annual property tax hikes in order to fully fund county and school services.

“Voting yes on this referendum is a vote to prevent property tax hikes and protect our schools, as well as support health, safety and other human services that support our quality of life in the county,” Edelman said in a statement.

Fairfax Families Against the Food Tax says the county needs better spending controls, not a meals tax.

“Giving government hundreds of millions of dollars more every year will only make the spending problem worse and won’t solve any problems at all,” Ed Hardy, Chef and Owner of Reston-based Bacon N’ Ed’s Mobile Gourmet Kitchen, says.

 

 

  • Scott H

    Stop the Boondoggle before it starts. Do NOT give the Board of Supervisors another tax lever.
    Every time the Govt uses “the kids” (ie FCPS) as the justification, be wary. It is almost always a bait-and-switch where the existing revenue is diverted to other areas and the “the kids” don’t see the intended increase.
    The county raised Property Taxes $100M last year and now they want an additional $100M. Really?
    The county takes in roughly $4 BILLION dollars annually.
    We do not have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem.
    $100M represents 2.5% of the county budget.
    If they really care about the kids, there is no way they can make the claim that they can’t cut 2.5% of the budget from other areas.

    DO NOT GIVE THEM ANOTHER TAX AVENUE TO MILK COUNTY RESIDENTS!

  • JoeInReston

    “have a meals tax, as do towns of Vienna, Herndon, Clifton, Falls Church and Fairfax City (those towns’ rates would stay the same; diners would not pay an additional county tax)”

    So residents of those towns inside Fairfax County would receive the benefits of their local sale tax + the benefits of this new county wide sales tax which they don’t pay, or more accurately, they don’t pay as often, presuming people tend eat near to where they live.

    • Walter Hadlock

      JoeinReston: We here in Herndon pay a Town property tax on top of the county property tax as well as the existing 6% sales tax. The Town property tax takes care of expenses for things like Town government; the Town police force; the Town Dept. of Public Works-streets, trash and recycling pickups; Community Development–includes zoning board/enforcement; water system; a Community Center, etc. Our county tax payment contributes towards county government; county police/fire/ems; school system; library system (with a branch here in the Town); and a county park inside Town limits, among other things. The proposed Meals tax, that I intend to vote against, would only apply to Town residents who eat/dine at places in the county that are outside those municipalities that currently have an existing meals tax as noted in the body of the above article.

      • BGEMD 9406

        If you already benefit from a meals tax in your community, why would you oppose a meals tax for the county to benefit all the kids and taxpayers? Just to save a few pennies next time you get a Whopper at Burger King outside the town limits. You suffer from the same problem as the Grinch — your heart is three sizes too small, among other body parts.

  • Nyla J.

    I’ll tell you how to fully fund county and school services: Stop making it so easy to be illegal here. It’s a drain on all our social and community systems.

    Keep taxing the middle class in any form whether property or meals or tolls, and soon there won’t be any middle class folks left here! We’ll all be needing the free and reduced programs available. These programs should be emergency support for individuals and families in need, not a given for anyone who wants to live here.

    • BGEMD 9406

      Yes, you are right, Nyla. It is totally the illegals. It is all their fault. That’s exactly what Emma Lazarus wrote on the Statue of Liberty.

      • Nyla J.

        You mean the place where people legally came into the country?

  • One Really

    “For just a few pennies more, we can support our kids, keep our community safe and vibrant, and relieve homeowners,” said Kimberly Adams, president of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs and a Vote Yes Meals Tax campaign chair. “We’re asking voters to get informed, get involved, and get out to vote.”
    Maybe some better use of the already overinflated budget. Just say “No” to anymore pennies to the Ivory Tower.

  • Tom H

    Who can comment on the facts of this piece of the proposed legislation “David Edelman, chair of Invest in Fairfax, calls the meals tax a “win-win for everyone in our community” as it will stop annual property tax hikes in order to fully fund county and school services.” How long will this hold any increases in property taxes? If the term is long enough, I may consider being in favor of a meals tax.

    • Mike M

      If you are sap enough, you will believe this line of bull.

      • BGEMD 9406

        If you are sap enough to NOT believe it, you will enjoy another 4 cent property tax increase in the spring. You can choose a tax where 1/3 is paid by people living outside the county, or you can choose a tax where 100% is paid by Fairfax County residents. Your call.

  • Sidewinder

    A burger at Clyde’s already costs $13 (before cheese). Add 6% sales tax to that, now it costs $13.78. Add the 4% “Meals Tax”, now it costs $14.30. Most normal people tip 20% on the after-tax total without thinking about it because they don’t want to look like a cheapskate to their server… brings us to $17.16… and that’s your total for a burger if you only choke it down with a free glass of water.

    After great deliberation, I think I’ll just go hit McD’s for the 1/4 Quarter Pounder w/cheese for $2… but wait, I need to consider the taxes…

    Long story short, I will not be voting for this stupid meals tax. The lottery and the local grocery stores already contribute to the schools enough, on top of our normal taxes. The money is obviously being squandered.

    Just let us dine out in peace already.

    • BGEMD 9406

      “The money is obviously being squandered.” Obviously, you squandered your own education because you have NO FACTS supporting your assertion.

  • Arielle in NoVA

    The county needs the money. The county is limited as to how it can raise funds. A meals tax is one of the few ways we can raise money locally and keep that money local. We need this tax.

    • BGEMD 9406

      Agreed!

  • meh

    I could swallow the tax if it was marked and 100% only for raises to teachers. Not middle management, not the admin assistants, not the supers, not the principals but the actual front line teachers.

    Oh well, when these teachers are working a part time job or two to make ends meat they can take comfort in the fact they are so tolerant and accepting of the ESL program

    • BGEMD 9406

      Meh, 85% of the FCPS budget goes to teacher salaries. FCPS posts its budget online, so you can review it yourself. The School Board members earn $33,000 per year. They are not in it for the money. Gatehouse, the FCPS HQ, is nearly empty of employees as a result of budget cutbacks since 2009. Just google it. So the only place the money can really go is (1) to increase teacher salaries to the market average, and (2) reduce class sizes. If this is not done, the entire School Board will be voted out at the next election.

  • hadrianmarcus

    I promise to vote for the meals tax if FCPS, the teacher’s unions, the parents groups, etc. all promise to not drag out the sad little faces and do their ‘the sky is falling’ routine every yearly budget review. And if they agree stay within their current percentage of the county budget. Fact is….there is never enough money….ever..when it comes to the FCPS.

    • BGEMD 9406

      We agree. As long as you and your pathetic friends agree to stop bitching and moaning about high property taxes. If you don’t like it, MOVE SOMEWHERE ELSE. It is the families that support the local economy not you and your internet porn watching.

  • The Constitutionalist

    This is what Governments do, they grow like cancer. What we really have is a spending problem, not a funding problem.

    • BGEMD 9406

      The only cancer is the reflexive hatred of government that is incubated by endless viewing of fact-free programs on Fox News.

  • Stella

    For just a few pennies more, we can support our kids, keep our community safe and vibrant, and relieve homeowners,” said Kimberly Adams, president of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs and a Vote Yes Meals Tax campaign chair.

    What Kim fails to mention is that 70% of the money from a meals tax will go to schools NOT keeping our communities safe and vibrant and relieving homeowners. The BoS just added an additional penny to the real estate tax specifically for schools–when does it end? If the Superintendent, Karen Garza, a recent transplant from Texas, wants to indeed boycott our Fairfax restaurants that oppose a meals tax, as she so eloquently stated, then so be it. I am certain it wont be noticed. I think that County residents are smart enough to realize that all of this Karen Garza the world is coming to end rhetoric is exactly that, rhetoric–its been going on for years. READERS: Don’t let them fool you!!

×

Subscribe to our mailing list