Genevans to vote on sales tax increase, with specter of dining tax

  • Geneva intends to ask voters to increase its sales tax in a referendum in March. And if rejected, the city could instead institute a places-for-eating tax, under measures the city council discussed Monday.

    Geneva intends to ask voters to increase its sales tax in a referendum in March. And if rejected, the city could instead institute a places-for-eating tax, under measures the city council discussed Monday. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, 2016

 
 
Posted10/24/2017 5:34 AM

If Geneva residents don't agree to raise the city's sales tax in a March 20 referendum, patrons at Geneva restaurants could start paying a 2 percent places-for-eating tax May 1.

The city council committee of the whole gave preliminary, unanimous approval Monday to putting a sales tax referendum on the primary ballot. It also approved, 5-3, to instituting the places-for-eating tax, with a clause that it only go into effect if the sales tax increase is defeated.

 

The city currently charges .5 percent sales tax. The referendum calls for doubling the local sales tax rate to 1 percent. That would bring the total rate for general merchandise to 8 percent, the same as Batavia.

Mayor Kevin Burns said how the extra money would be used will be discussed when the council starts budget discussions Nov. 3. Vehicle replacement and improvements to drainage were mentioned Monday.

Binding votes on both measures will occur Nov. 6.

Wildwood restaurant owner Patrick Neary repeated what he said when fighting against the places-for-eating tax last year, when it was first adopted: That restaurant owners prefer a citywide sales tax increase, and that he will work to support it.

But they want more information on how it will be spent.

"We can't be proponents of this without knowing what it is and what it is for," Neary said. Burns said that will be discussed over the next five months, starting with a budget workshop Nov. 3.

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Former Alderman Tom Simonian, who opposed that places-for-eating tax when he was alderman, said the council was acting prematurely. "Here we go again with revenue, revenue, revenue and not looking at expense, expense, expense," he said.

He also criticized city officials for not telling restaurant owners about Monday night's discussion in advance, given that a group of those owners complained about communications the last time around. He said he contacted 60 restaurant owners over the weekend, and none of them knew the discussion was scheduled.

Neary said other towns where he has businesses reach out when their boards are going to discuss issues pertinent to him, and that only one alderman had called him.

Burns noted the agendas are posted on Thursdays on the city's website, that the city sends out a weekly email newsletter linking to the agenda, and that people can sign up for email notifications.

Neary said given the amount of liquor-license fees and property and sales taxes Wildwood pays, "I deserve a little bit better communication."

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