Fairfax County may be step closer to serving up meals tax

FAIRFAX, Va. — Fairfax County is inching forward on a meals tax, but it’s the voters who must decide whether the county will collect a 4 percent tax on prepared meals at restaurants, deli counters, convenience stores and grocery stores.

County supervisors on the Budget Committee met Tuesday, but have not yet agreed on the language of a proposed November referendum which would lay out how the money raised by the new tax would be spent.

“Most of us feel that [it] is a revenue that we should avail ourselves of,” said Sharon Bulova, chairman of Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

“Other jurisdictions within Fairfax County — Vienna, Herndon, Alexandria, Falls Church — all have a meals tax. We do not.”

The proposed 4 percent tax would yield about $100 million annually. Discussions center on how the added money would be spent.

Bulova is recommending that 80 percent of the money go to the public school system and 20 percent be spent on county infrastructure.

“We need to take care of our older infrastructure. We need to make sure that we’re not losing ground when it comes to paying our teachers a competitive wage so they can live in Fairfax County and teach in Fairfax County,” Bulova said.

Some supervisors want a 50-50 split between the schools and county infrastructure projects. Some suggest that 25 percent of the revenue be used to provide citizens property tax relief.

The meals tax has its opponents.

Some restaurateurs, represented by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, argue that it would cut into familys budget and could hurt some businesses.

Diners in Fairfax already pay a 4.5 percent Virginia state tax and a 1 percent county tax. There is also a 0.7 percent state transportation tax on meals in Northern Virginia.

Alexandria, Fairfax City and Falls Church each have 4 percent meals taxes. Vienna’s meals tax is 3 percent; Herndon’s is 2.5 percent.

Bulova expects the meal tax will be left up to voters in the fall.

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