Mayor Stoney proposes increased meals tax to pay for school improvements

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney introduced a law Monday to increase the city meals tax 1.5 percent in order to pay for the renovation and replacement of public schools in the city.

In a press release, officials from Stoney’s office said that the measure is necessary to increase the city’s debt capacity without impacting the city’s operations.

If passed, the ordinance would provide the city with an additional $9.1 million a year and increase the city’s debt capacity to allow them to borrow up to $150 million over the next five years. The mayor’s proposal would require that the funds be placed in a special reserve only available to for funding school facilities.

The mayor explained his rationale for the proposition in a statement.

“For the last year, I’ve said that when it comes to meeting the critical needs of school facilities, the only option that’s off the table is doing nothing,” said Mayor Stoney. “It’s time for us to invest boldly in our most important resources – our children. We owe it to the children of our City to act.”

This comes in response to a comprehensive plan proposed by the Richmond School Board that would cost $224 million to construct five new schools and renovate others.

Michelle Williams from the Richmond Restaurant Group said she opposes the proposed ordinance because it creates an unjust burden on local businesses.

“We already have one of the highest tax rates in the state and in the country, as a matter of fact,” Williams said. “And if we were to raise it again our tax rate would be higher than 50 of the largest cities in the U.S. is my understanding.”

In 2003, City Council passed a 1 percent hike in the meals tax to pay for the Richmond Performing Arts Center. At the time, the council promised it would be phased out.

Instead, the revenues were moved to the general fund once the center was built.

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