At their December 17th meeting, the Board of Selectmen discussed the possibility of a meals tax. It’s not something currently scheduled for a vote, just something they may consider in future.
The topic came up during the fiscal year audit as they discussed funding of OPEB (other post employment benefits). Treasurer Mark Ballentine adressed Selectmen’s question of how other towns are handling the expense. Ballentine pointed out that Northborough’s recently implemented Meals Tax is one of the ways they found a revenue stream.
Chairman Dan Kolenda remarked that he would rather find a savings stream than impose a tax “that rolls into the cost of the meal”. Selectman Bill Boland says that he’s always voted against it in the past. He now thinks they should consider it “as we are starting to become the only town that doesn’t do that.”
Boland informed Kolenda that Marlborough just voted it in the night before. Kolenda quipped, “The good folks from Marlborough will come to Southborough to dine.” That was the end of their discussion.
I looked into the subject.
Ashland, Northborough,Westborough, Framingham and Shrewsbury had already approved the 0.75% local tax to raise the total meals tax up to 7%.
Marlborough was the last standing neighbor. The Marlborough Patch reports that before voting on the tax, a City Councilor claimed to have received 130 letters in favor (including from restaurants) and only 3 opposed.
It made me wonder, does a 0.75% tax make a difference in people’s behavior?
(Remember, it’s the difference of 75¢ per $100.)
For some people any tax is infuriating. But this is also the state that voted not to lower the recently increased sales tax.
Would adding an additional tax, no matter how small, outrage you? Or do you think that it would be a useful revenue stream?
Does knowing that surrounding towns have a meal tax but we don’t impact your choice on where you eat?
And how much revenue difference would it make in a town with only 22 eateries – most of them primarily for take-out? (I can only think of 3 with a wait staff.)