Taking their discussion of a possible meals tax to the people Tuesday night, the Town Council moved one step closer to a final up and down vote on the controversial revenue-generating proposal.
Mary Tuohy, the town's director of finance, presented an outline detailing the advantages and disadvantages of a meals tax. Herndon is the only one of 32 towns in the Commonwealth without a similar tax. Of the 40 cities in Virginia, all 40 have some sort of meals tax, Tuohy said. Born from the council's suggestion at the Feb. 4, 2003 work session, Tuohy concluded her staff report with a draft meals tax ordinance. Here are a few excerpts from the proposed ordinance unveiled Tuesday night:
• Applies to meals sold at food establishments including restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, delicatessens, etc.
• Suggested levy is 3.5 percent.
• Every person receiving any payment for food and beverages defined as a "meal" would collect and remit the tax to the town on a monthly basis.
• Collectors that remit the tax on time would be allowed to retain six percent of the tax collected as compensation for their collection efforts.
• Ordinance would become effective on and after July 1, 2003.
In a 5 to 2 vote at the Feb. 25 public hearing, the council elected to defer the motion for another four week continuation period, as suggested by Mayor Richard Thoesen. The council will address the issue, once again, at the March 25 public hearing.
Despite the latest delay, opponents of the suggested tax, including several local restaurateurs in attendance, left the hearing buoyed by the comments of a few of the board members. Vice mayor Carol Bruce reluctantly supported the deferral, but she made it clear that she is no fan of the tax. Calling Herndon a "restaurant Mecca," Bruce insisted that such a tax would unfairly "single out our points of pride."
"This measure flies in the face of all that's fair and right," she said.
In addition, Council members Connie Hutchinson and Dennis Husch voted against giving the council more time to debate the issue. "I'm ready to vote no on this issue," Hutchinson said.
Calling the idea of a meals tax, "regressive," Council member John DeNoyer also said he has serious qualms with the proposal.
— Jeff Green