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Middlesex meals tax referendum on Nov. 5 ballot

by Tom Chillemi

On Tuesday, November 5, Middlesex voters will decide if the county should enact a 4% food and beverage (meals) tax. The referendum is binding, which means the voters’ approval is necessary for the county meals tax to be enacted.

Voters defeated a county meals tax referendum in 1999, 2005 and 2010.

A meals tax would raise at least $230,000 in taxes, according to county administrator Matt Walker, who added the amount of tax could be higher because sales from convenience stores and grocery store delicatessens were not used in that estimate.

Carlton Revere, chair of the Middlesex Board of Supervisors, noted that estimates made before a previous referendum projected the meals tax revenue at more than $400,000.

In comparison, Urbanna’s 5% meals tax raised $88,000 in the 2012-13 fiscal year, said Joe Heyman, a town council member.

The county meals tax information was distributed at a town hall meeting at the Deltaville Community Association building on October 16. Three members of the public attended.

Middlesex officials distributed copies of a “Meals Tax Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) document. The following are from the county’s FAQs document:

The 4% meals tax would add 40 cents to a $10 meal, 80 cents to a $20 meal; and $1.60 to a $40 meal.

The following localities have a meals tax: Gloucester, West Point, King William, New Kent, James City, York, Kilmarnock, Tappahannock, West Point, Williamsburg, Newport News, Hampton, Richmond and others.

In Virginia, 209 jurisdictions have a meals tax, including 125 towns, all 39 cities, and 45 of the 95 counties.

What is considered a “meal” that is subject to the Meals Tax? A meal is prepared food or drink offered for sale by a food establishment that is ready for immediate consumption.

Are beverages such as soda, beer, water and others that are in a can, bottle or other factory-sealed container subject to the meals tax? No. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages sold for off-premise consumption in factory sealed containers are exempt from the Meals Tax under the proposed ordinance.

What makes this Meals Tax Referendum different from past requests? Previous referendums proposed that revenues simply supplement Middlesex County’s General Fund. The current referendum would bind the majority of revenue to fund emergency services, including fire and rescue services, and much-needed capital improvements for the county and schools.

The percentage of “yes” votes for a meals tax in Middlesex has increased since the first meals tax referendum in 1999, when 26% voted for it. In 2005, 42.5% voted for it; and in 2010, 44% voted for the meals tax.

More meals tax FAQs can be read online here.

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 10.23.2013

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