The question is this: If the Budget Committee now supports a 25 percent increase in the meals tax, when did this shift occur – as an increase from four percent to five percent was voted down in April?
At the April 3, 2012 Budget Committee meeting Vice Mayor Joan Lehr made a motion to keep the town meals tax at its current rate of four percent. The motion passed 5-1-1, with Council Member Wiley voting against and Council Member Nave absent for the vote.
The May 8, 2012 Town Council meeting agenda showed the meals tax rate being supported by the Budget Committee at four percent.
On the agenda for the June 12, 2012 Town Council meeting, the same April agenda tax rates are shown … except for the meals tax rate which now shows the Budget Committee supporting an increase to five percent. However, nowhere in any minutes or audio tapes prior to June 12, 2012 is there any discussion of a meals tax increase.
At the same time, the town is proposing to “streamline” their budget approval process by removing the line item listings of actual tax rates in different tax implementing ordinances, making it easier to change tax rates by eliminating the need for public hearings when an ordinance is “modified.”
This means that the Town Council can quietly increase tax rates by a simple resolution. This is a major change to the Town’s policy, which is being swept under the rug under the guise of a simple “housekeeping” change to the ordinance.
The Blue Ridge Leader asked Vice Mayor Joan Lehr about her current position on the meals tax increase. She stated: “I was not for that, I haven’t heard all the arguments so I haven’t made the final decision. I would have preferred to raise the real estate tax to handle the cost of living increases that have occurred in the town.”