Henrico moves one step closer to meals tax

Posted at 11:44 PM, Apr 23, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-23 23:57:55-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) -- The Henrico County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution Tuesday evening asking the county’s Circuit Court to order a referendum on a meals tax during the November 5th election.

The meals tax would levy a 4 percent tax on all prepared food and drinks in restaurants across the county. The city of Richmond currently has a 6 percent meals tax that some restaurant owners have attempted to repeal.

In 2005, Henrico voters rejected a similar proposal, but only by a narrow margin.

County leaders, dealing with a bare bones budget this fiscal year, have already had to cut $115-million over the past four years.

Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas says Henrico is feeling the sting of budget cuts later than most localities.

“We went into this recession better positioned than most,” Vithoulkas says. “We took some defensive measures, but we are in the fifth year and we do see some difficulty ahead in the next year and subsequent years.”

The funding generated from the meals tax would be used for operational costs and capital projects for Henrico County Schools.

It’s estimated that the tax could generate for than 18-million dollars for Henrico’s public schools.

On Monday night, Henrico School Superintendent Patrick Russo told a crowd at the Twin Hickory Library that the school system was facing a $21-million budget shortfall in the fiscal year 2015.

Russo says the dedicated revenue stream from a meals tax would help prevent deep cuts to the school budget.

County leaders are also considering a 6-cent increase in the real estate tax if the meals tax vote fails in November.

Only one citizen spoke out at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting about the proposed meals tax.

Brent Maney of Varina encouraged county leaders to consider alternative ways of generating money rather than a meals or real estate tax.

“We feel you guys are our elected leaders and you’re the ones that need to answer those questions,” Maney said.

If voters pass the referendum in November, the Board of Supervisors would still be required to pass an ordinance creating a meals tax after hearing public input.