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Meals tax most equitable

There has been a purposeful reshuffling of the budget.

The Police Department had been funded though Jacksonville’s General Fund. This is no longer the case. Much of the funding for the Police Department was allocated for other purposes. This funding reshuffling left a $400,000 shortfall in the police budget.

To acquire the revenue needed to fund the Police Department, the Jacksonville City Council deliberated and chose to enact a surcharge to each citizen’s city water bill.

This is far from the first time the council has used this method to raise funds for city services. In fact, up to half of many Jacksonville water bill totals are surcharge fees.

Yes, we need to fund our city services. No one is denying that. But some are questioning this method of procuring those dollars. Many are questioning whether water surcharge fees are the right choice for tax collection.

Despite what some may say, a surcharge is a tax. Some believe a vote on a levy would have been a better choice. Given the entire set of circumstances, others believe a small meals tax (5 percent) is even a better choice.

A meals tax provides the opportunity to spread the responsibility for city services around to all those who utilize these services. Tourists come to Jacksonville, delight in our little town, and utilize our public services. Are only the residents supposed to pay for the services the visitors use?

In reality, who benefits the most from the tourists? The business community, of course. If you follow the trail of the current rhetoric against the meals tax, you will find restaurants, the Chamber of Commerce and the Jacksonville Review at its source. This is because they are in fear of what they don’t understand. They will tell you that this 5 percent meals tax will drive away customers and close up businesses.

There is absolutely no proof of this.

On the contrary, meals taxes have been successful in both Yachats and Ashland for 10 and 25 years respectively. Both of those towns have had an upward revenue stream since enacting their meals tax. Restaurants are still serving customers and tourists are still visiting these towns. In fact, all numbers point to an ever-increasing tourism base.

We all love sharing this gem of a town we live in. Let all who enjoy it pay their share.

Steven Wall lives in Jacksonville.

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