ROANOKE, VA- Roanoke Councilman Court Rosen today proposed an emergency, two-year increase in the city’s prepared meal tax of 2% as short term fiscal first aid to provide the Roanoke City Public Schools needed breathing room amid massive state cuts to public education. The measure would help fill an enormous funding deficit within our schools and also alleviate significant pressure on the city’s budget, preserving public safety and other essential city programs and services.
“As a small business owner, the last thing I like to see is increased taxes, particularly during difficult economic times,” said Rosen. “But within the next eight weeks our schools must adopt a budget for next fiscal year, and we must look at what's best for the education of kids by trying to keep class sizes lower and preserving programs that benefit our urban youth.”If enacted, a 2% increase in the “meals tax” would have the following impact on the cost of meals in the City of Roanoke:
· On a $10 meal, it would add 20 cents to the cost of the meal
· On a $25 meal, it would add 50 cents to the cost of the meal
· On a $100 meal, it would add $2 to the cost of the meal
“This is only one proposal that deserves a public, transparent and vigorous debate,” Rosen said. “It’s important that city residents also recognize that this measure, while directed to fill a funding gap within our schools, will relieve significant pressure from the city’s budget, preserving needed programs and services delivered by hardworking, qualified employees of the City of Roanoke.”
The next two fiscal years are projected to be exceptionally difficult in fulfilling needed educational, economic development and social programs. If enacted, City Council should revisit this tax increase at the end of the next fiscal year, and should the economy rebound sooner than expected, the Council should revert the meals tax back to its current level. If, as expected, the next two fiscal years are as tough as expected, the sunset clause written into the proposed ordinance would guarantee the tax would end following the next two fiscal years.
“Additionally, this proposal stresses that any tax increase should sunset and end on June 30, 2012 and should be enacted only as a temporary measure and not as a ‘new’ source of revenue that either our schools or the city become reliant on,” said Rosen. “It would be a short-term, emergency tax to fill an emergency need that has been forced upon us at the state level.”
Rosen stressed that this proposal should be debated in the upcoming budget sessions that City Council will soon begin, and that he looks forward to other discussions, proposals and solutions by others to what soon could be devastating funding cuts leveled by the Commonwealth at our public schools.