Voters to decide on meals tax

Published 11:55 am Wednesday, June 26, 2019


When Charlotte County voters go to the polls in November, they will have the opportunity to vote on a Meals Tax Referendum.

If the meals tax is adopted, and the maximum tax rate of 4 percent is imposed, then the total tax set on all prepared food and beverage will be 9.3 percent.

It was at the May meeting of the Board of Supervisors that members adopted the resolution instructing county attorney, Russell Slayton to draft the court order to have the referendum placed on the November ballot.

The resolution to seek the court order to place the referendum on the ballot carried with all supervisors voting yes. The motion was made by Wylliesburg/Red Oak Supervisor Kay Pierantoni and seconded by then Cullen/ Red House Supervisor Nancy Carwile.

Pierantoni pointed out during the May meeting that she had spoken to one restaurant owner in her district and that they were in favor of the tax because they understood that tax revenue was needed for the county.

Currently, only towns in Charlotte County have a meals tax. This referendum would be for the county as a whole. “This is a ‘user’ tax and another source of revenue for the county and a ‘flow-through’ tax,” explained County Administrator, Daniel Witt. “Meaning, if you chose not to eat out, you don’t pay the tax.” According to Witt, flow-through means the business collects the tax for the county and is compensated for doing so. “As discussed by the board, this revenue source will include folks from outside our county and is already a source of revenues for the towns within the county,” said Witt.

According to the petition filed at the Charlotte County Circuit Court, the meals tax would not only apply to restaurants but to any convenience store that prepares food to be sold.

During their discussion on the Meals Tax, Pierantoni also said that she felt that the citizens needed to understand
that the tax collected in the towns would still go to those towns but that the tax collected from restaurants and convenience stores that are not in town limits would be for the county.

According to the resolution, the referendum for the meals tax would be used to support government services to
include schools and capital projects.

Phenix resident Walter Bailey expressed his thoughts on the Meals Tax
noting that this is a way to spread the wealth and that by having this tax those who pass through the county
will now help pay for services that they might use.

“I’m not excited about another tax but this can help with the tax burden,” he said.

“Our taxes right now come from
real estate and personal property but those people traveling though and use our services, such as our EMS and
police, if needed are not paying a tax. With this tax they would now be doing that if they choose to stop and eat.”