A bit of perspective on the proposed 5 percent meals tax proposal in Jacksonville.
As a 27-year resident, I have seen restaurants come and go, or change, and others stay for decades. Food quality for the price, service, friendly atmosphere, changing tastes — all play into eatery longevity.
Our tiny town of approximately 1,400 households has roughly 20 eating, drinking, coffee establishments or combinations of both. If they all relied on the locals to support their businesses they would have starved long ago.
Every single one opened up shop here and not another small town like Gold Hill or Rogue River, because Jacksonville has always attracted tourists. Lots and lots of cash-carrying tourists. They come for the small-town historical ambiance and events: five months of Britt concerts, vintage car shows, city-wide yard sales, Oktoberfest, World of Wine, art shows, Victorian Christmas, Meet the Pioneers, nearby hang-gliding races, Chinese New Year’s, four months of Sunday Farmers Market, and every holiday and most weekends bring families, friends, and tourists.
Local residents do not benefit financially from tourists. We all pay for the police, fire department, parks, public restrooms and city services as well as salaries for all city employees out of our property taxes to the city. We are also paying an extra surcharge, that we did not get to vote on, of $38 per month on our water bill to add more dollars to maintain a fully manned fire department and park maintenance. The new additional surcharge of $20 for extra police funding, again not voted on, will total $58 per household per month on top of taxes already paid for those services.
The city opted not to put a new levy on the ballet for additional revenue and instead continue to increase surcharges without letting citizens have a vote or voice. If it passes, restaurant owners can keep 20 cents of every dollar collected for police funding for their trouble. Kind of like how a bar or business gets a kick-back for having lottery machines for the state.
I will happily join my neighbors and friends and pay an extra 15 cents on a cappuccino or $1 on a $20 meal for services that benefit and enhance the livability our town. And every visitor who comes here and has a meal or a cup of coffee or a soda can help us maintain it for their enjoyment, too, just like they do when paying the city lodging tax when they stay in a bed-and-breakfast or motel or vacation rental.
I often eat in Ashland and never even think about their meals tax on my bill. I just enjoy the great food and conversation with friends, and look forward to an evening walk through Lithia Park that my small meal tax is helping the city keep so inviting and beautiful for everyone.
Leona Sewitsky lives in Jacksonville.