City Council increases Richmond meals tax

Virginia’s capital city is raising its meals tax. The money is earmarked to help fix the city’s crumbling schools. Richmond City Council voted late Tuesday night 7 to 2. It was a long and contentious meeting.

After five hours, including two of public comment, Council voted to increase the meals tax from 6-percent to 7.5-percent.

Formally, the city calls the facility its “Cold Weather Overflow Shelter.” It opens in the winter from 7 p.m. to 10 a.m. when temperatures are forecast to drop below 40 degrees. It’s staffed by Commonwealth Catholic Charities and costs the city about $300,000 a year to operate. In theory, it’s a backup for when the city’s other better-equipped shelters are full, but the other shelters are nearly always full.

Richmond’s Mayor Levar Stoney initially proposed the tax increase just two weeks ago. But teacher and advocate Chris Lombardi says financial support for city schools has been a long time coming.

“Two years after hundreds of people were on the front steps of city hall just demanding for better – we’re still kind of having these same conversations,” says Lombardi.

Now, Lombardi feels there’s a greater sense of urgency and he’s optimistic. Several students turned out to speak in favor of the tax increase. But many local business owners were opposed.

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By the end of the night, it became clear the tax would pass. Jake Crocker was one of the few restaurant owners who hung around to the end.

Mayor Levar Stoney’s office told the newspaper the city is working to secure a more suitable facility by next winter.

“Everybody else stormed off — quite upset. This is a very emotional issue, we all support the schools,” says Crocker.

Additional Content: Richmond Considers Meals Tax for Education, Roanoke’s Already Done It

“I am disappointed that my efforts to work collaboratively in a review of all options and crafting a comprehensive plan has been set aside for this simplistic approach,” Agelasto stated in a newsletter. “I support finding the funding for the school’s facilities plan. Yet, I am disappointed in the lack of dialogue to get options on the table for consideration and to explain to the public how these work.”

A proposal to add a five-year sunset to the tax failed, as did a suggestion to postpone the vote for one month. The increase will kick in July 1.

The city estimates it will raise about $9 million a year. The administration plans to use that revenue to borrow an additional $150 million.

“I personally believe it’s our responsibility not to continue to perpetuate the series of injustices and inequities that we’ve allowed for far too long,” Stoney said. “This is negligence over many, many years. This to me is a social justice issue of our time for Richmond.”

In a statement Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney says the vote sends a strong message to students.

During a visit to the Student Government Association meeting Feb. 5, the mayor made the case for his plan, highlighting the $9 million in annual revenue a 1.5 percent tax increase could raise — money he said he wants to use to modernize Richmond’s schools in a $750 plan.

“This is just the first big step in what will be many more steps to improve our schools for our children,” Stoney wrote. “After decades of telling them to wait, tonight we put them first.”

Richmond City Council met Monday night to discuss a proposed bump to the city’s meals tax. The Mayor is calling for the tax increase as a way to raise money for Richmond’s crumbling schools and local restaurant owners are pushing back.

Richmond, though, isn’t the first locality in Virginia to turn to the meals tax for education.

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond City Council voted in favor of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s proposed meals tax increase Monday night.

As a result, the city’s meals tax rate will rise from 6 to 7.5 percent, which is expected to provide the city with an additional $9.1 million annually towards fixing Richmond Public Schools (RPS). The added revenue is also expected to increase Richmond’s debt capacity.

Meals tax passes #rva council 7-2 with @kimgray4rva @kristenRVA voting no. @8NEWS

Monday’s vote has been the subject of controversy since Mayor Stoney proposed the hike earlier this year.

While it’s been backed by RPS supporters and others, including from new superintendent Jason Kamras, others have spoken out against the proposal in the weeks leading up to Monday’s vote, claiming the increase could put a strain on the local restaurant business.

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Posted in Richmond