Mayor Stoney calls for meals tax increase to pay for schools

Mayor Stoney calls for meals tax increase to pay for schools

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney says the city is considering an increase in the meals tax rate to fund the modernization of the school system.

Stoney wants to raise the meal tax 1.5 percent, which he says will generate an additional $9.1 million per year.

The city currently has a $66 million debt capacity through FY2023 for city and school projects. Stoney says that would increase to $150 million if they increase the meal tax, and the funds would be reserved for school facilities.

"For the last year, I've said that when it comes to meeting the critical needs of school facilities, the only option that's off the table is doing nothing," said Stoney. "It's time for us to invest boldly in our most important resources - our children. We owe it to the children of our city to act."

Not everyone is on board. Jake Crocker, who owns Lady Nawlins', FW Sullivans, and Uptown Market and Deli, said he can't believe the mayor is considering taxing food and drink even more.

"We're getting confront by visitors to this city, residents of this city, who think we're gouging them because of these taxes, and now we're going to add more on there after this constant battle?" said Crocker.

In 2003, Richmond increased its meals tax from five to six percent to help pay for the performance arts space CenterStage. Back then, the city claimed it would drop the additional tax point once it had the money it needed.

It didn't, and residents have been paying that extra money ever since.

Crocker says he already gets an earful from customers who don't like how high the taxes are now.

"We'll feel it. I hear it every single day," said Crocker.

But how does Richmond compare to surrounding localities? The state charges a 5.3 percent meals tax across the board - we're all even there. The state puts a cap on counties, limiting meal taxes there to four percent.

Henrico charges four percent. Chesterfield and Hanover don't collect a meal tax.

Richmond collects six percent now, but if the proposal goes through, the taxman will take you for 7.5 percent, plus the state's tax - nearly 13 percent in total.

"1.5 percent doesn't sound like a lot, but 13 percent, once added up, takes a toll," said Crocker. "It puts an unbearable stress on the restaurants themselves. It deters business, and it pushes these hard-working citizens."

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