The Chesterfield Board of Supervisors last week approved a resolution authorizing the county to request the Circuit Court to order a special election to consider adopting a meals tax in order to address the public education and public safety capital needs of Chesterfield County.
The meals tax, if approved by the Circuit Court, could add from 1 to 4 percent to the current tax rate in addition to an increase imposed by the Commonwealth during the most recent General Assembly session. The increased sales tax of .3 percent brings the total tax to 5.3 percent (Chesterfield adds 1 percent to the sales tax currently).
The meals tax would be used for capital projects only, which means it is for building public facilities and could not be used for operating expenses such as salaries, new hires, maintenance or other regular expenses.
But Dan Gecker, Supervisor of the Midlothian District warned Board members about future Boards of Supervisors.
“Any subsequent board could change the allocation of the meals tax,” Gecker said. “We can’t guarantee what the projects are going to be.”
The Board has the option of implementing up to a 4 percent meals tax. Each percentage point would generate about $4 million per year. The math dictates that if the Board were to implement the meals tax and take it to it’s upper limit, the county would gain $16 million per year.
Currently the windfall would be delegated to school projects such as new schools or renovations but could not be used for salaries or to hire new teachers. The tax could also be appropriated to build a new radio system for police, fire and EMS departments in the county.
Steve Elswick, Matoaca District Supervisor agonized over the tax being used for only new projects indicating there have been 16 pages of school cuts.
“We need to restore PTR (Pupil Teacher Ratio),” he said. “We are asking for approval of the meals tax today and a vote in the fall and next we’ll need to raise taxes for PTR.”
Currently PTR in Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) is: Elementary School -25:1; Middle School 27:1 and High School – 26:1. For example there are 27 students per teacher at Middle School levels.
Art Warren, Supervisor Clover Hill District advised his peers of the need to be on the same page with the School Board.
“The School Board and the Board of Supervisors have got to be absolutely in unison on this,” Warren said. “All five of us have to be onboard.”