by Jessee Perry
In 2018, the meals tax is a hotly contested issue with many people recalling the sins of the past. If you want to get caught up on the timeline before the vote, check out the summaries and links below. The original language of the ordinances and the minutes from the meeting where they passed can be found hyperlinked below. In addition, I included a summary of what the ordinance did and how City Council voted (with commentary when it was included).
Original 1% Meals Tax Increase: 2003
ORD 2003-268-239 was introduced on July 14th and adopted on July 28th. This ordinance went into effect immediately upon passing.
SUMMARY: The Virginia Performing Arts Foundation (the Foundation) wanted to build a new performing arts center and renovate the Carpenter Center for a total project cost of $80,000,000 and wanted the City to contribute up to $27,800,000. The plan was for the meals tax to be increased by 1% (from 5% to 6%) to support the interim financing of up to $12M for the project. In addition, any revenue in excess of the amount needed to pay off the $12M debt would be given directly to the Foundation until the City reached it's $27.8M contribution commitment. The ordinance said the Foundation had to demonstrate by July 1, 2005 that they had obtained financing for the remaining project balance and if they were not able to prove they had the financing, the meals tax would only go toward satisfying the $12M interim financing debt (instead of the full $27.8M project commitment) and once that debt was satisfied, the meals tax would expire.
VOTES: At this meeting, Council nominated, appointed, and swore in interim members to vacant 4th and 6th district seats. Robert Beasley Jones Jr was appointed to the 4th District and Walter Thomas Kenney Sr was appointed to the 6th District. The ordinance passed with 7 members voting yes, 1 voting no, and 1 abstaining. Voting in favor were Rudolph "Rudy" McCollum, Gwen Hedgepath, W. Randolph Johnson, William "Bill" Pantele, Walter Kenney, Manoli Loupassi, Delores McQuinn. Jackie Jackson voted against and Robert Jones abstained.
Special Revenue Fund- 2004
ORD 2004-32-42 was introduced on February 9, 2004 and adopted on February 23, 2004.
SUMMARY: This ordinance added a new account in the Special Fund Budget called the 1% Prepared Meals Tax Special Revenue Fund Account for the 1% meals tax for the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation Project to go to.
VOTES: This passed on a 7-0 vote with Gwen Hedgepath and Jackie Jackson temporarily excused from the room. The votes in favor were Rudolph "Rudy" McCollum, Peter Grimm, Randolph Johnson Jr, Manoli Loupassi, Delores McQuinn, William "Bill" Pantele, Ellen Robertson.
Deadline Extension: 2005
ORD 2005-136-79 was introduced on May 9, 2005 and adopted May 23, 2005.
SUMMARY: In the 2003 meals tax resolution, the revenue was supposed to go toward paying of $12M of interim financing and then anything above and beyond the debt service would go directly to the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation Project up to the City's $27.8M total commitment. As part of this, the Foundation had to prove by July 1, 2005 that they had secured the financing for the remaining balance of the project (total project cost was $80M) and if they didn't do that, the City would pay off the remaining financing for the $12M, not contribute more, and the tax would automatically discontinue. This ordinance extended the Foundation's deadline from July 1, 2005 to December 31, 2006 provided Council receive monthly reports and Councilman Bill Pantele and Councilwoman Ellen Robertson were named as members of the Foundation's Board of Directors and Executive Committee.
VOTES: The ordinance passed unanimously so the yes votes were Kathy Graziano, Bill Pantele, Chris Hilbert, Ellen Robertson, Eugene Mason, Marty Jewell, Jackie Jackson, Manoli Loupassi, and Delores McQuinn. At the time, Councilman Bill Pantele said Richmond was doing well when we were the cultural center of the region, he attended public meetings and citizens want the project, so far $11.5M had been raised from 3rd party sources, and the public is not injured by giving the Foundation an extension. Councilman Marty Jewell said he originally opposed the ordinance because he thought it was ill-timed and the city must have more cultural arts. Assistant Vice-Mayor Jackie Jackson said her priority is education but supports extending the fundraising deadline because there is no hardship on the city and not allowing it would move the city in the wrong direction. Councilman Chris Hilbert wanted a continuance but the jobs the project would create "are very impressive" and the city must provide options for people other than "hanging out" because if that is the only option people will "get into activity we don't want to see." Councilwoman Kathy Graziano stated her support was because she wants to have first class arts in Richmond and for Broad Street to be something we can be proud of. Councilman Eugene Mason referenced an email from a student who said her dance group made a difference and he wanted to see other young people to have that opportunity. Councilwoman Ellen Robertson's comments were primarily about her role serving on the board to make sure the commitments of the project will be honored. Councilwoman Delores McQuinn's support was tied to her intention to make the world better than when she got here and indicated that the Foundation is not asking for more money, just more time. Vice Mayor Manoli Loupassi supported the paper and said citizens understand that Council won't hand the $15.8M check over to the Foundation until they raise their committed money.
Transferring Funds: 2006
ORD 2006-54-124 was introduced on March 6, 2006 and adopted May 30, 2006.
SUMMARY: This part was removed through amendment; however, the original text of this resolution indicated that the Foundation did not meet the terms and conditions of the 2005 ordinance and declined to pursue further funding from the City. This ordinance was part of the budget papers for the Fiscal Year 2007 budget which included Wilder's City of the Future Initiative. The ordinance took the money from the special reserve fund and moved it into the General Fund to address "debt-related costs for cultural facilities and new or renovated school buildings as part of the Mayor's City of the Future Initiative." However, first the Interim Financing from the previous project had to be paid. In addition, this ordinance removed the expiration clause that was in the 2003 ordinance.
VOTES: This ordinance passed as part of the budget papers which passed unanimously so the yes votes were Kathy Graziano, Bill Pantele, Chris Hilbert, Ellen Robertson, Eugene Mason, Marty Jewell, and Delores McQuinn, Manoli Loupassi, and Jackie Jackson.