Friday, August 5, 2016

Food and Beverage Tax Forum

Quite a few restaurant and package liquor owners showed up for the Chamber of Commerce's meeting yesterday to discuss the new tax on prepared food and alcohol sales in Carbondale. Money raised by the tax will go to fund police and fire department pensions as well as downtown revitalization projects.

Most of those in attendance agreed with Mayor Henry, after an explanation, that the city needed more money to pay those costs, though a few advocated looking for the always popular "waste" in city expenses. Two major concerns were advanced by attendees:

1) Carbondale would have the highest tax on food and alcohol in the state, and possibly in the nation.
2) The tax is unfair, in that it targets a specific class of businesses, rather than spreading the cost out citywide, as an increase in the overall sales tax would do.

Mayor Henry said an overall increase had been considered but shelved due to complaints by sellers of higher ticket items such as furniture and cars, as increases in the sales tax on those items would raise the price significantly more than would the increase in tax on a dinner. However, he aid the council would go back and take another look at a sales tax as well as other options for the food and beverage tax, such as a graduated introduction.

Several restaurant owners, as well as the Chamber, said they had received a number of messages and complaints about the tax, with customers threatening to take their business to lower taxed restaurants in Carterville, Marion and Murphysboro. The extra time this would consume however, makes this pretty unlikely. Carbondale's population doubles during the day and those people who come to town to work are not going to take the time to drive to another city to save the tax. 

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