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Meals Tax Cooked, School Bonds Pass - Loudoun Times Mirror

November 5, 2008

Featured in Loudoun Times Mirror

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Meals tax cooked, school bonds pass
BY: Elizabeth Coe

Voters in Loudoun County overwhelmingly turned down the proposed meals tax Nov. 4, which would have added a small tax to food and beverages in restaurants and prepared, ready-to-serve foods in grocery stores.

School bonds approved

Loudoun voters Nov. 4 approved $104 million for new school construction.

The funds will be used to build an elementary school in the Ashburn/Dulles-area set to open in 2010 and a high school in Dulles South scheduled to open in 2011.

Only about 29 percent of voters in the county voted "yes" to the tax.

Several groups had come out against the tax, proposed by the Board of Supervisors to help fund new school construction. If passed, the meals tax could have raised $13 million annually.

Such a tax already exists in the incorporated towns of Leesburg, Purcellville, Hamilton and Middleburg.

Nicholas Graham, co-founder of the Loudoun Coalition Against the Food Tax, said he is pleased with the way Loudoun voted.

"We were pleasantly surprised at the margin," he said. "Obviously the economy played a major factor. It weighed on people's minds as they voted for president and stayed with them as they went down the ballot."

Graham added that this was "the wrong tax at the wrong time," stating that it unfairly targeted restaurants.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York (I-at large) said had the tax passed, it would have provided the county with another source of revenue for new schools.

"The voters keep overwhelmingly approving school construction, and the board thought this would relieve a little bit of the pressure on the real property tax," he said. "A fairly sizable amount of meals are bought from people that live outside the county visiting as tourists, business folks, etc., and a lot of this would have been paid for by out-of-county folks."

Edgar Hatrick, superintendent of Loudoun County Public Schools, had supported the tax.

"I think it's unfortunate that it failed," he said. "It's hard to get a positive group out there in favor of a new tax. I'm not sure that enough was made of the fact that the vast majority of us pay the meals tax now because of the towns."

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