School bonds, meals tax referendum considered for November

The Chesterfield Board of Supervisors (BOS) last Wednesday asked County Administrator James J.L. Stegmaier to bring forward a resolution (plan) for a referendum, which would include $266 million provided for school building improvements and new a new school as well as a meals tax of up to 4 percent. Citizens would vote on the bond referendum and the meals tax as separate items in the November 5 election.

Board members were curious about the school division’s (CCPS) referendum funds would be spent. Marcus Newsome PhD., indicated that a schedule of improvements was presented to the BOS but that the length of time for the bond projects had been extended from five years to seven.

School projects range from $2 million, on the low end, for a school administration building upgrade to $38 million for upgrades and expansion of Manchester Middle School.

The meals tax is currently not nailed down. County Administrator James J.L. Stegmaier told those attending a budget and audit committee meeting that the BOS has the ability to go as high as 4 percent on the meals tax (although it must be approved by the Virginia Justice Department.)

During the BOS meeting just hours after the budget and audit committee meeting, Bermuda District Supervisor said, “I don’t agree with a meals tax. It puts an unfair burden on restaurants.”

Marketing the meals tax to the public could be problematic if it is sold without a specific use. Mr. Stegmaier said some have said the funds should be used for school operations, some for the county’s unfunded pension plan and others have said it should be applied to the school classroom Pupil/Teacher Ratio (PTR).

“This has to be worked out before we go to the public,” Stegmaier said. “It’s clear we still have work to do.”

Jim Holland, Dale District Supervisor, told the committee “We need a clear and succinct message to citizens on the [meals tax].”

Schools were thought to be a primary user of the meals tax and Midlothian District Supervisor, Dan Gecker, was anxious to get that point across. “As funds become available, we should funnel them back into the education system if we are the community we say we are.”

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