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Meals tax hike beefs up Town of Amherst budget

Tuesday, May 22, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Bannon Squirewell
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A 2 percentage point increase to the town of Amherst’s meals and beverage tax received Town Council’s unanimous approval last Wednesday.

The measure takes the town’s proposed 2018-19 fiscal year budget out of a deficit of $106,000 into a surplus of more than $60,000, according to town officials.

Town Manager Sara Carter, who is steering her first budget process since starting the post in January, said boosting the meals tax from 4 percent to 6 percent would allow considerations for capital needs in addition to covering operations.

She said even with the increase, the town’s meals tax still is less than the city of Lynchburg and nearby towns of Appomattox, Altavista and Farmville.

“Going to 6 percent still keeps us in the range of our competitors and actually a little lower than most of them,” Carter said.

If council had rejected the proposal, the town could balance its deficit by dipping into savings, Carter said, adding it would only be a short-term fix.

“You can’t take money from the savings account forever,” she said.

No one spoke for or against the tax increase during a public hearing. Council passed the measure with little discussion.

Councilwoman Rachel Carton, a member of the town’s finance committee, has said the meals tax is the town’s main revenue source. Boosting it to 6 percent puts the town in a “comfortable place,” she said, as the town wants to refrain from having to levy a real estate or personal property tax on residents, two potential revenue sources that have been off the books in recent years.

“We want to hold that off as long as possible,” Carton said of the real estate tax.

The town currently has 16 restaurants, according to Carter.

The town’s $3.6 million spending plan is a 27 percent decrease from the current $5 million budget, due to not having any capital projects, Carter said.

Upcoming projects will be considered in a new capital improvement program process beginning in the fall, she said.

The budget proposes adding a wastewater plant operator and eliminating a deputy manager position, a measure recommended by an organizational strategic assessment of town operations by the Berkley Group LLC, a Bridgewater-based consulting firm.

No one spoke for or against the budget plan during a public hearing at last Wednesday’s meeting. Council is set to vote on adopting the 2018-2019 fiscal plan at its June 13 meeting.

Click here for the full article from the Amherst New Era Progress. 




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