Signs in hand, residents protest Sussex’s proposed meals tax

By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: July 28, 2019 | 3:15 p.m.

SUSSEX – Protestors encircling the entrance to the Sussex Judicial Center before the July 18 Board of Supervisors Meeting were silent, but their signs and faces spoke volumes long before the meeting was set to begin.

Protests have been growing ever since the Board of Supervisors voted on April 18, in a split decision, to place an option on the November General Election ballot for citizens to vote on the proposed new county tax. The group had brought signs reading “No Meals Tax,” as well as a large truck proclaiming the same in huge letters on the back and sides, in opposition to the tax which potentially could be levied on anyone eating in local restaurants in Sussex county.

As the time for the meeting arrived, the protestors quietly entered the building and stood at the back of the room, maintaining their vigil for the duration.

During the public comments section of the meeting, four local citizens, including two mayors and two of the protestors, came forward to speak on the matter.

Waverly Mayor Angela McPhaul expressed concern that, with there already being a town meals tax in Waverly, the planned county meals tax referendum on the ballot would cause confusion in her town.

Next, Rex Davis of Davis Oil spoke of his opposition to the meals tax, saying, “I just don’t think this is the way to go to advance this county forward. I think it’s anti-business. It keeps people in poverty. The very people you’re trying to help, you’re going to hurt. I just don’t think it’s the right way for this county to go. I don’t think this is the leadership this county needs. It’s not vision. This is laziness. This says, ‘We got no game and we’re just going to tighten the screws on business.’ And that’s not how you grow business. It’s not how you attract business. It says, ‘We don’t want business.’ … We are not the destination. We’re a stop along the way.”

“People can make a choice. They can stop somewhere else. I don’t want to give them that choice or reason to stop anywhere else” he continued, indicating that his goal in trying to stop the Meals Tax is to be able to continue to grow in, invest in, and add jobs in Sussex County.

Stony Creek councilmember Sylvia Jackson spoke of her love for the community and her puzzlement as to why the county would want to levy the meals tax, saying, in part, “We are an impoverished area and you know that. Where do you think we eat on our breaks? Where do you think we go? We don’t drive to Petersburg. We don’t drive down the road. We eat here. So just remember that, ok?”

The last speaker on the subject simply said, “I’m Frank Jackson. Mayor of Stony Creek. I’m just letting you know I’m opposed to the Meals Tax.”

No one spoke in favor of the countywide meals tax.

The only actual item on the agenda concerning the meals tax for the July meeting was the need to adopt a technical correction of the April meeting minutes. As read, the minutes said that a judge had to order a special election for the referendum. In reality, it was not about a special election; it was a referendum on the ballot for the general election. When the time for the vote on corrected language in the minutes arrived, the vote was 4-1 in favor, but only 3-2 in favor of adopting the action required by the vote.

Chairman Susan Seward said afterward, “This was a ceremonial vote for me. I voted to adopt the corrected language because I would not vote against something that was factually correct; the language in the minutes needed correction. However, I voted against the action the corrected minutes brings about – the adoption of the plan to go forward with the referendum on the ballot – because I am opposed to the meals tax. We STILL have not seen what is going on the ballot – the actual language – and I think citizens need to know how that ballot amendment is going to read now.

The chairman requested in the meeting that as soon as the language to be on the ballot goes to the judge, it is posted on the County’s public website and publicized elsewhere.

“Citizens need to know how that ballot amendment is going to read – what their vote will really be about,” Seward said.

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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