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Mayor pitches meals tax increase for schools ahead of council vote

Posted at 11:29 PM, Feb 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-11 14:21:00-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- As Richmond City Council readies to vote Monday on a proposed meals tax increase, Mayor Levar Stoney is telling constituents the plan is the best way to fund improvements in city schools.

The mayor’s proposal would bump the meals tax at Richmond restaurants from 6 to 7.5- percent. The total tax, combined with sales tax, would go from 11.3 to 12.8-percent.

Stoney’s plan does have support from several council members, who agree that funding construction of five new schools and renovation of two others need to be the priority.

“We have to do everything that`s available to us, and the meals tax, raising it by 1.5-percent, is the most prudent way of doing it at this moment,” Stoney said. “It tackles the emergency needs. It doesn`t do everything but we can`t wait any longer. We`ve got to get started now.”

Among those not ready to vote yes is 4th District Councilwoman Kristen Larson. She wants to defer voting for at least two weeks. During that time, she`d like council to consider adding a sunset clause. This would allow the increase to expire after five years.

In a statement provided to WTVR CBS 6, the councilwoman recalls the meals tax increase that helped fund Center Stage. The tax was never rescinded, as initially promised. The proceeds from it continue to flow into the city`s General Fund.

“That moment in history, though long before my time, has inspired me to create this legislation that will ensure this money remains dedicated for its intended purpose,” Larson said.

As it stands, an approved increase would generate more than $9 million each year.

Monday's formal meeting begins at 6 p.m. and will include public comment and the meals tax vote, unless council decides to hold off.

If approved, the tax would become effective July 1, 2018.