CHESTERFIELD and HENRICO COUNTIES, Va. (WRIC)—Residents of Chesterfield County voted against a controversial meals tax on Election Day, while those in nearby Henrico County passed the measure.
Chesterfield County had high hopes that voters would approve the 2-percent meals tax on Nov. 5. Instead, 56 percent of voters shot it down, all while approving projects for schools and public safety—with no way to pay for them.
Now leaders in Chesterfield may have to raise property taxes to pay for those projects.
"Unlike the federal government, which can just keep running up debt, we have to balance our budget," said Chesterfield County Administrator Jay Stegmaier. "So, we have to figure a way to fund the services that the citizens are asking for."
Things played out differently in Henrico County, where 52 percent of voters were in favor of a 4-percent meals tax.
"It's a tiny little tax that wouldn't affect my habits at all," said Henrico resident Brint Keyes. "It's part of living in society … you get some privileges and you pay for those with taxes."
The Henrico meals tax is expected to rake in $18 million a year, all of which is expected to go to Henrico County Public Schools.
County leaders say 55 cents of every dollar in Henrico County go to the schools, and that's why the meals tax is needed.
"They have the biggest budget gap in our budget," said Brandon Hinton, the county's budget director. "Going forward, to know that Henrico County's top priority in education has a dedicated funding source for the needs that they have for many years, is a relief."
The school system also issued a statement.
"We're very grateful for the support, and proud to stand with our partners in county government in proposing this option for the betterment of Henrico County Public Schools," said Andy Jenks, HCPS director of communication and public relations.
But restaurant owners aren't happy with the plan; many think they're being targeted by the county.
"It's one thing when you have the entire state paying a meals tax and everybody's on the same level playing field," said Buz Grossberg, the owner of Buz and Ned's Real Barbecue.
Though the meals tax has been approved, it's not a done deal yet; the Henrico County Board of Supervisors still has to approve a law outlining how the meals tax will be regulated.
Copyright 2013 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond
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