The Town Council took the meals and hotel tax issue head-on at a special meeting Tuesday night and approved both measures by a wide margin. The debate was thorough and professional on both sides, with local business owners and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Eric Gaynor weighing in against the increase in the tax and the councillors expressing their well thought out opinions on the issue.
Councillor Russell Sanford offered what seemed like a compelling argument against the increase in the meals tax when he told the story of a customer approaching a local business owner about a price increase for six items from 99 cents to $1.08, which may not seem like much, but itâ€™s the perception of it not being a great six-for-99-cent deal anymore, Sanford said.
But when Councillor Jeanne Maggio said that she would be willing to pay the extra couple of cents or nickel if it would help the townâ€™s financial situation, even though she is on a fixed income, everyone could sense that the vote would be in favor of the tax increases.
In the end, the councillors felt that in the current state of financial affairs for the town, it couldnâ€™t pass up the additional revenue which could mean saving the layoff of police officers and teachers or even making sure there would be funds to plow the streets of snow in the winter. We also would note that the state Legislature specifically allowed communities to impose these taxes as a means of â€œself-helpâ€ so that cities and towns could lessen the effects of the reduction in local aid that the governor and state Legislature approved in the FY â€˜10 budget. We have no doubt that most municipalities across the state will take advantage of this means of raising desperately needed revenue to offset the losses in local aid.
We would conclude by commending Council President Thomas Reilly for administering the debate with fairness and decorum (even as one of his colleagues jumped the gun a bit before it was his turn to speak).
The meals and hotel tax increases will go into effect on October 1 in Winthrop.