This year at Town Meeting, Northborough will have the opportunity to decide if it wants to add a local meals or hotel tax. Both will be warrant articles at Town Meeting on Monday, April 22.
Though selectmen disagreed on their support of both taxes, all approved of putting the decision to the voters.
Insituting a meals tax would raise the tax on your restaurant bill .75; it is already 6.5 percent in Massachusetts. Hotel room taxes would increase from 4 to 6 percent.
"If you were to go out to eat, and your bill was $5, that would be 4 cents," explained Town Administrator John Coderre. "For a $100 bill, that would be 75 cents."
Massachusetts gave towns the opportunity to add meals and hotel taxes in 2008 as a way to raise needed revenue in a shriveling economy. While most communities adopted the hotel tax, the meals tax gained in popularity, with 161 communities that now have it, including Westborough and Shrewsbury.
Northborough, until now, hasn't considered either.
Coderre explained that while Northborough has experienced a period of economic growth and is in good financial shape, he is in support of the taxes as a "proactive move" and as a means to continue to keep the average family tax increases low.
If both taxes are approved, it would raise approximately $280,000 additional revenue for Northborough, with $250,000 of that from a meals tax, said Coderre.
Selectman Dawn Rand had concerns over the meals tax, saying, "I think it's a good idea to put it before town meeting, but there are a lot of stores that are independently owned that will be impacted. It doesn't look like a lot, and the impact is minimal, but I look cautiously at that one. I do think there is the potential for it to hurt Northborough businesses by passing that."
Coderre added that Rand's sentiment was "precisely why we didn't do it, but there has been no evidence that it had a negative impact anywhere. The concept here is that it'll really be negligible. There is no evidence that it impacts anyone's behavior."
The board unanimously supported adopting the hotel tax, arguing that town services are needed at both of Northborough's hotels: Motel 6, and the EconoLodge, where Massachusetts places homeless families.
Selectman Jeff Amberson, while he supports the taxes, had reservations that hinge on trust issues with state goverment.
"I can't help but think that with the state collecting this tax, and then returning it to the towns .... I just hope there is a methodology," he said. "I hope they keep giving it back to the towns and it's not like some of those mandates, like special education, where they were supposed to pay 75 percent, and now it's down to 62. I would be upset if down the road the state started taking the money."
Will you vote in favor or against the meals or hotel taxes? Why so? Share your comments in the comments section, which is the perfect place for comments.