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Support varies for proposed Durham meal tax

Posted September 17, 2008

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— Supporters of a proposed 1 percent tax on prepared food say the additional revenue would pay for upgrades and renovations at a number of Durham attractions.

Opponents of the increase say the timing couldn't be any worse.

"It's about equity, really, and about economic development in Durham," said Chuck Watts, co-chairman of the Prepared Food Tax Steering Committee, an advocacy group.

For more than two decades, Durham leaders have been pushing for the tax to fund improvements to facilities like the Hayti Heritage Center and the Carolina Theatre and to build new projects like a minor league baseball museum near the Durham Athletic Park.

Last month, state lawmakers passed a bill that would allow Durham voters to decide. The referendum will appear on the Durham County ballot in November.

The proceeds from the tax would be divided between beautification and cleanup; community marketing; work force development; and civic, cultural and recreational projects.

"It's critical, because there are no other ways to get this done that are as efficient and that are as fair," Watts said.

The North Carolina Restaurant Association says most restaurants and hotels in Durham County are against the food tax, however.

That includes Nosh restaurant owner Wendy Woods, who said that in a bad economy, it's tough enough to keep prices down as costs are going up.

"Right now, I think it's a bad idea," she said.

Adding a tax, even 1 percent, she said, could hurt business.

"It's becoming more and more competitive, and you are working harder to make the same money ... you were two years ago," Wood said.

Those who support the tax said it is an opportunity for Durham County that's not likely to come again.

Watts said that if the tax doesn’t pass in the general election, the delay could cost taxpayers more when they fund future projects.

He cited the Hayti Heritage Center as an example. The center asked for renovations in 1988, and they would have cost $5 million then. Those same renovations now, Watts said, cost $14 million.

Supporters also said the tax could generate $5 million to $7 million dollars a year and that the cost would be minimal to the average person – probably about $18 a year.

Similar taxes have benefited other areas in the Triangle.

In Wake County, a food and beverage tax collected more than $16 million last year, helping to fund projects such as the RBC Center.

Hillsborough, Charlotte and Fayetteville have similar taxes.

19 Comments

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  • ohmygosh Sep 18, 2008

    Or maybe they could just close Hayti.

  • TheAdmiral Sep 18, 2008

    Why do people always say - "It is just a small tax that goes to this."

    There are 100 thousand taxes out there that were small that grew and grew and now people will not purchase products because the tax on them is so high.

    How about cutting spending? The thought in the government is to increase the spending by 10% to get what they need for the year rather than looking around and cutting the spending.

  • johnsonnc Sep 18, 2008

    Say NO to this tax! Durham has high property taxes and cannot afford another tax. Enough is enough!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • johnsonnc Sep 18, 2008

    Say NO to this tax! Durham has high property taxes that I struggle to pay each year. Middle class families can't support everything the the town leaders want. Let them find the money another way!

  • iron fist Sep 18, 2008

    VOTE NO on food tax

  • scarletindurham Sep 18, 2008

    STOP IT WITH THE TAXES ALREADY!!! With gas, groceries, electric, and water already raised since last year, I can't take this anymore. Durham is about to crush it's already poverty-stricken residents under the wheel.

  • White Eagle Sep 18, 2008

    How about cutting spending first and showing the taxpayers that govt can be a good steward of the funds they already have. As for costing $18 per person per year - that is just so much bull. I went to dinner last night with the family (3 people) and we paid $25 for a simple meal. In general, as a family we may eat out 2X a week and 1% of that would be about $26/year. That doesn't include the $10 for lunch 2-3 times a week which would come to an additional $10-15/year. That's an additional $36-41/per year. Not quite a tank of gas but still an unnecessary hit on my pocket. Yes, I could and should probably cut back and if the tax is put in place I probably will.

    If you want money for Hayti and other projects, float a bond for that only that purpose. Taxes are the gift that keeps on taking from the people cause once it's in place the politicians will never give it back.
    We're already taxed like crazy in Durham, we don't need any mor

  • blondchk4 Sep 18, 2008

    May I please add, folks, that there's a wonderful solution for all this repetitive-taxation we're currently under:

    www.fairtax.org

  • blondchk4 Sep 18, 2008

    More money, more money, more money, that's all the government knows how to ask the people for. Actually, now that I think about it, they don't even ASK.....when's the last time anybody had the OPTION of not paying taxes when they received their paycheck? I'm guessing, oh, NEVER, since by the time we receive our paychecks the money's already been taken from us. And that's just taxes on our income, this whole story has to do with taxing what we BUY. I hope everybody else is as sick to death of being taxed anytime we move or breathe, and that they'll all vote NO to this project.

    Plan a budget, Durham leaders, and find the money for your projects you feel are "critical" amongst what you already have. Anytime I need something extra that's how I manage to pay for it.

  • no contest Sep 18, 2008

    They want to redistribute money from one part of the population to the other. They want to support the Hayti Heritage Center. The Hayti Heritage Center has been in the news many times for wasting money.

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