Letter To The Editor – Proposed Meals Tax

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Small businesses will be affected by the proposed meals tax that Patrick County citizens will vote for or against, either yes or no, on Nov. 5th.

Proponents of the tax have convinced many county residents that voting yes on the tax will result in the reduction of their property taxes.

The one business in Woolwine that will be affected by the tax is Orchard Gap Deli. There is not enough food business at Orchard Gap Deli that taxing it will affect real estate taxes of property owners in Woolwine.

Outside the town limits of Stuart are Howell’s Grocery and Robert’s Grill. There are not enough food sales from these two businesses that the tax will affect the property taxes of all the rest of the homeowners.

In Patrick Springs there is Elizabeth’s Pizza, Noonies Grill, and Friendly’s. There are not enough food sales in these small businesses to affect the property tax of all the home owners.

In Critz, one small business will be affected by the tax: Gill’s Grill. Will there be enough income from taxing the food at Gill’s Grill to affect the property taxes in Critz? No.

Boyd’s Restaurant in Ararat also would be impacted. Does Boyd’s Restaurant sell enough food that taxing their patrons will alleviate the property taxes for everyone else in Ararat? Of course not.

At least 95% of the patrons of these small businesses are local customers, Patrick County citizens. The proposed tax is a tax on them.

In Meadows of Dan, there are Jane’s Café, Poor Farmers Market, and the big fish, Primland. The customers at Jane’s Café and Poor Farmers Market are nearly 95% Patrick County citizens for six months out of the year. The other six months, the months that the Blue Ridge Parkway is open, the business is 50 to 60% from local Patrick County citizens.  There are not enough food sales from these two businesses that the tax will affect the property tax on all the homeowners and farmers in Meadows of Dan. This is an obvious fact.

The proposed tax is a tax on the patrons of these small country businesses. It is predominately a tax on local people who are on a fixed or low income. They can choose not to eat out, but that will affect the business. Many elderly people on a fixed income go out to eat just to have somewhere to go, to get out of the house. This is also a tax on them.

The proponents of the tax say the tax will not affect the businesses because it is a “pass through” tax, paid by people passing through the county. The proponents of the tax say it is a good tax because it is a voluntary tax. The two statements that it is a voluntary tax and the tax will not affect the businesses are incongruent. Obviously, some people will choose to eat out less because of this tax and it will affect the small businesses out in the county.

Of course, the proponents of the tax are eyeing the big fish Primland. Some have said those rich people who go to Primland will not notice that tax, but financially successful people are often more aware of costs than poor people. The tax will affect Primland most of all because it will add up to a lot more cost on those high dollar food bills. The tax will cost Primland some sales. Loss of sales will result in loss of jobs. The tax will also affect the attitude of Primland toward the county. This tax is not a win-win, even on Primland.

The proponents of the tax have their eye on Floydfest. They imagine they will get huge returns on those food service vendors at Floydfest. Those vendors are from California, Florida, and all over the country. The cost of trying to enforce this tax on those out of state vendors will far exceed any income they might cough up for Patrick County, Virginia. Floydfest is not going to take a very big hit from Patrick County. They will move their location to Floyd instead.

Those who sell food at the Strawberry Festival, the Beach Music Festival, Front Porch Fest and fall festivals, need to understand that the tax is also a tax on their sales. It will cost the county more to try to enforce the tax on these vendors than the county will profit from the tax.

The proposed meals tax will not affect the businesses in the town of Stuart because Stuart already has a food tax. All the income from the food tax in Stuart goes to the Town of Stuart and none to the county, although Stuart residents enjoy all the same benefits from the county as do those who live outside the town limits. The revenue from the food tax in Stuart funds necessary provisions such as water, sewage, sidewalks, and lighting. It is nice that Stuart has these things, but out in the county, the businesses and residents will have the same tax but will receive no such benefits.

The county is in financial crisis, but the $200,000 or so in additional revenue will not affect the $3 million dollar deficit enough to result in reduced property taxes. This is an obvious fact. The tax will have an adverse effect on small country businesses and county residents that support them.

Felecia Shelor

Meadows of Dan