2013-09-11 / Opinions


Meals tax is necessary to upgrade schools, public safety

Recently, the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors decided to ask voters on Election Day to approve the issuance of $304 million in bonds for school facility improvements, $49 million in bonds for a new emergency communication systemandtoinstitutea2percentmealstax to help pay for the improvements.

The county’s emergency communication system is no longer supported by the manufacturer, and staff must scrounge for spare parts and components from other sources, including auction sites like eBay. This is a no brainer.

The county’s schools are in need of repair and, in some cases, replacement. Some kids get to go to brand new schools while others go to schools that are falling apart. Enon Elementary School, for example, was built in 1928. It can’t possibly meet the needs of today’s kids. This is another no brainer.

This type of spending directly impacts the local community in which we live in a positive way. So, why pick on restaurants and caterers? Because the only other tax option the county has is to increase real estate taxes.

Homeowners are compelled by law to pay their real estate taxes. Eating out and having food catered is optional and to some extent a luxury. Anyone can avoid the meals tax by not going out to eat or hiring a caterer.

Further, a meals tax would collect revenue from people in surrounding counties and the city as well as tourists who patronize county restaurants and caterers. When you, as a Chesterfield resident, patronize a Richmond cityrestaurant,you pay a 6 percent meals tax. When a Richmond resident patronizes a Chesterfield restaurant, wouldn’t you like to get back some of that 6 percent?

The average American family spends about $2,600 per year eating out. A 2 percent meals tax comes out to $1 per week if you eat out. That’s not too much to ask. If it is, order water instead of a soda and you will pay the tax and have money to spare.

Doug Horton

Cash proffers not the problem

I see on the front page of the Observer’s Aug. 21 issue that cash proffers now cause property foreclosure. However, let’s look at the facts as reported in the article.

Through multiple limited liability corporations, Mr. George Emerson, et al., purchased a 714-acre property in 2007-2008 for $6.3 million. It is now assessed at about $3.6 million. The loan to purchase the property is likely more than the assessed value.

The property was rezoned by the county in 2007 for a 248-home equestrian-oriented residential subdivision. The property owner agreed six years ago as part of the rezoning request to the payment of cash proffers per home to help finance their fair share of the county (taxpayer) cost of providing new or expanded public facilities to serve the development, the need for which would not exist if the 248 homes were not built.

Due to the housing market downturn, the development was postponed. In 2010, Mr. Emerson tried to unload the property on the county hoping to sell it for a public park. The county declined.

Now Mr. Emerson and Ms. Carrie Coyner blame cash proffers for the foreclosure. Instead of expecting county taxpayers to bail out what simply turned out to be a bad investment via buying the land or paying all the costs for new public facilities’ service, why not just accept responsibility for the situation? Not all speculative residential development investments will make you rich.

Paul Grasewicz
North Chesterfield

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