HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) - Former Henrico County Manager Virgil Hazelett spoke out in favor of establishing a county meals tax to help generate new money for the county and its school system. If county voters do not support the proposed four percent meals tax in the November election, county leaders said they would have to raise Henrico's real estate tax to generate the money.
"The board of supervisors has not raised taxes in Henrico County in the past 35 years,” Hazelett said at a pro-meals tax event Thursday. “They've reduced taxes six times in the same period; six times since 1996. They’ll be hesitant to raise the real estate tax.”
The county said the four percent meals tax would raise about $18 million a year.
Hazelett and other supporters of the taxes announced the new "Yes 4 Henrico Kids" referendum committee. The group will attempt to gather voter support for the meals tax prior to the November vote.
According to the group, an estimated 40 percent of the meals tax would be paid by people from outside the county who eat at Henrico restaurants. They argue the added tax money is needed to offset $70 million in school budget cuts.
For a restaurant bill of $45, the four percent meals tax would add up to an additional $1.80 on your final bill.
"A meals tax is a small price to pay," Hazelett during a press conference.
Hazelett alluded to the fact that if the meals tax is not approved, property taxes could increase or services could be cut.
But the threat of a service reductions or property tax increases is not deterring a meals tax opposition from occurring.
Ron Melancon has launched nomealstax.org. He says Henrico should enforce current tax laws before raising new ones.
"Government always talks about creating taxes, but there is never enforcement," Melancon, who started nomealstax.org.
For restaurant owners like Stephen Tang, who is a co-owner of Chen's Restaurant in Henrico, the meals tax remains a concern - wondering if it could reduce customers.
"A meals tax may push the customer away," Stephen told CBS 6.
But restaurant owners now have an incentive to support the tax.
The Henrico Public Relations Office said if the four percent meals tax passed, restaurants would be able to keep three percent of the total revenue raised to help offset the administrative costs associated with collecting the tax.
"It does make it a little bit better but our customers aren't going to see that," Lisa Quach, a ten year employee of Chen's said.
Chesterfield is also proposing a meals tax on November ballot. Chesterfield leaders are request a two percent meals tax where Henrico leaders are requesting a four percent tax.