Stoney appointee: Don’t support restaurants that oppose meals tax increase

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — An appointee of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney wrote in an email that supporters of his proposed meals tax increase should boycott restaurants who oppose the hike which would benefit public schools.

Cindy Menz-Erb, a former interim school board member and one of Stoney’s six appointees to his Education Compact, sent the email on Wednesday and it eventually made the rounds on social media with heavy protest.

“Only patronize restaurants who support the meals tax,” Menz-Erb wrote in the email. “There will be signs for restaurants to display soon but in the meantime, just ask if they support it.”

Stoney posted a statement on his Facebook page saying he does not support “penalizing anyone, or any business, for their beliefs.”

Mayor Stoney’s full statement reads:

“My proposal to fund schools has generated strong feelings on both sides. Debate is healthy, and ensures we make the best decision for our kids and our community.

But let me make one thing clear – I do NOT support penalizing anyone, or any business, for their beliefs. In fact – I feel the exact opposite. We have an opportunity to rally around our ENTIRE restaurant community to show them that strong restaurants can help us build strong schools. As this debate moves forward, I plan to visit restaurants on all sides of this issue, to thank them for what they do for our city, and to learn how, I, as Mayor, can do more to help them grow and thrive in Richmond. I hope everyone who sees this will do the same.”

Stoney announced on Jan. 22 that he wants to increase the city meals tax 1.5 percent in order to pay for the renovation and replacement of public schools in the city.

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 for funding school facilities.

“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 told 8News last week that 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.”

Stoney is meeting Thursday afternoon with several restaurant owners to discuss his proposal.

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