Mayor Levar Stoney wants VCU students to support his meals tax proposal.
During a visit to the Student Government Association meeting Feb. 5, the mayor made the case for his plan, highlighting the $9 million in annual revenue a 1.5 percent tax increase could raise — money he said he wants to use to modernize Richmond’s schools in a $750 plan.
“I personally believe it’s our responsibility not to continue to perpetuate the series of injustices and inequities that we’ve allowed for far too long,” Stoney said. “This is negligence over many, many years. This to me is a social justice issue of our time for Richmond.”
City Council members passed a motion to vote on Stoney’s proposal Feb. 12. In a 5-3 vote with one member abstaining, the members made a recommendation for approval.
The meals tax was originally raised from 5 to 6 percent as a temporary measure to fund the former Richmond CenterStage performing arts center, now Dominion Energy Center, in 2003. City Council voted to keep the tax increase in place in 2006 despite its expiration date.
Some Richmond citizens are uneasy about any further increases. Fifth district councilman Parker Agelasto voiced support for other methods of generating revenue — like a cigarette tax, historic preservation tax credits, or performance contracting. But Agelasto said none of those alternatives have garnered much public support.
“I am disappointed that my efforts to work collaboratively in a review of all options and crafting a comprehensive plan has been set aside for this simplistic approach,” Agelasto stated in a newsletter. “I support finding the funding for the school’s facilities plan. Yet, I am disappointed in the lack of dialogue to get options on the table for consideration and to explain to the public how these work.”
Stoney said he believes the purchasing power of students at local universities would stimulate revenue from the tax increase.
SGA president Destinee Moragne said she agrees with the tax proposal and the benefit of supporting the community outweighs the money out of students’ pockets.
“VCU students already contribute to the community financially, and I believe that most students genuinely want to help others,” she said. “Once students realize it is benefiting children within the community, I truly believe that they will be more than understanding.”
If City Council approves it, the tax would go into effect in July.
Nia Tariq, Contributing Writer