Jacksonville meals tax heats up as election days nears

(KTVL/Georgia Lawson).PNG

Measure 15-180 would add a 5 percent tax to all food and non-alcoholic beverages purchased in Jacksonville.

That would then go to fund the police department as an alternative to a city wide surcharge on residents water bills.

Doug Phillips lead the initiative to get the measure on the ballot.

"This tax - we believe that tourists come to town, they use our services, they use our streets, they use our water, they use our police service, our paramedic services," says Phillips.

He says that by taxing restaurants, the measure spreads the burden out to visitors who benefit from Jacksonville services despite not currently paying in.

But Jerry Hayes of Bella Union take issue with that claim, saying the majority of his customers aren't tourists, but rather locals, just like himself.

"There's 14 restaurants in Jacksonville. They're all family owned, and we feel that implementing a meals tax is going to put a burden on us even though we don't pay it. Its going to after the people coming in," says Hayes.

He says that all the restaurants are on the same page in that they feel they're absorbing the impact of the tax.

"Many customers that come into a restaurant don't notice that its actually a tax added on," says Hayes. "They just look at the price of the meal."

He says he supports public safety but prefers the alternative - a surcharge to water that all residents would pay equally.

But Phillips claims that surcharge would be too much for some residents to pay, and with emotions high around this issue, looks forward to taking it to a vote.

"To me and the people that are working with me on this, we just thought okay were just giving them a choice, we'll give them information, we'll give them information and people will make their choices," says Phillips.

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