To the Editor:
I’m writing to encourage Fairfax County voters to support the county meals tax referendum on the ballot in November. The proposal would impose a 4-percent tax on ready-to-eat prepared food and beverages at restaurants and stores. Seventy percent of the money raised would support the Fairfax County Public Schools; the remainder would cover other expenses like police, fire, rescue, and human services. Supporting our schools is essential to maintaining our quality of life in Fairfax County. Good schools make Fairfax County a desirable place to live and do business and they raise the values of our homes. More specifically, the meals tax would allow the county to make teacher salaries competitive with those in neighboring jurisdictions. It would also allow the county to address increasing school class sizes, which make teaching less effective and which make our schools less attractive to prospective teachers.
The meals tax is also an alternative to a further increase in Fairfax County property taxes. The $100 million per year it would raise would more than cover the increase in real estate taxes from 2015 to 2016 (caused by increasing property assessments). According to the county budget summary, that increase cost the typical homeowner $184.81. Such a further increase could be staved off by shifting a small portion of the tax obligation from property owners to other taxpayers (including those from outside Fairfax County).
Finally, the meals tax would be a small burden. It would amount to 20 cents on a $5 meal and $2 on a $50 meal. Most of the other jurisdictions neighboring Fairfax County have a similar meals tax: Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax City, and the Towns of Vienna and Herndon. Yet most of us patronize restaurants there. Thus, the meals tax would not threaten the businesses of the restaurants in Fairfax County. That’s why I support the proposal.