Carbondale council may push back implementation of criticized new tax

Carbondale city council passes new food and beverage tax

A few dozen people came out to Tuesday's city council meeting in Carbondale to protest a recently established food and beverage tax.

Some Carbondale business owners explain the new 4 percent hike in Carbondale will make it more difficult to keep prices low.

"Four percent may not mean the difference for every transaction, but we cater events too," said a representative of Bandanna's Barbecue to the council. "When we're competing with adjacent towns that have a stark difference in tax obligations, we'll have a tough case to make to our customers."

Combined with sales tax of 8.75 percent, people eating in Carbondale would be billed at an effective tax rate of 12.75 percent.

According to a list compiled by an independent tax policy research organization, that rate outpaces the tax rate on meals in the 50 largest U.S. cities.

On June 14th, 2016, Carbondale approved the tax for places like restaurants but the tax wasn't scheduled to go into effect until August.

The city says the money would go to a variety of construction projects to improve infrastructure and curb appeal in the city.

"When parents bring their children to a town and they are going to leave them there for four years in our care, they want a town that looks like it is successful and looks like it can protect their children and have the resources for those young adults to prosper over four years," Henry said in May 2016 before the tax was approved. "We don't look that way today."

According to Tuesday's meeting agenda, the council planned to discuss inclusion of gas stations, movie theaters, and other places that sell prepared food.

"It's important to let people know how we feel about different taxes and such that go on in the city, and this has been an unpopular one," said William Lo, who's family owns Carbondale restaurant New Kahala. "Four percent is a huge burden when it comes all at once, and is too big of a pill to swallow. If one or two were proposed and passed, I don't think there would be as big of an issue.

Following roughly three hours of public deliberation with meeting attendees, the council informally presented an idea to push back the implementation of the tax to a later date.

"We can't make any decisions tonight because this action wasn't on tonight's agenda," Mayor John 'Mike' Henry said after the meeting. "But we will examine a few of our options at the next council meeting, and discuss pushing back implementation of this tax to a later date."

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