The Ordinance Committee then decided to table their vote until April 16, meaning the bill likely won’t come to a full City Council vote until May 14.
Scorzoni, the bill’s main sponsor, said his reason for proposing the new tax is to create a new revenue stream outside of property taxes that could be used for a specific purpose. Scorzoni said the tax would create around $200,000 in new revenue, and his vision is for all of that to go into a special stabilization fund where it would then be used for road and sidewalk repair.
The trouble that argument has run into is that any revenue raised by the new tax would have to go into the city’s general fund first and then the mayor would have to ask the City Council to appropriate the money into the new stabilization account, which is a savings account of sorts. Kelcourse said his problem with that is there is no guarantee the money would end up being used for road repair if future mayors or councilors decided to go a different route.
The counter to that has been the fact that ambulance receipts are already used in a similar way, and even though those funds could theoretically be used for anything, tradition and precedent has dictated that they be used for that stabilization account, and the local meals tax could be done the same way.
Local meals taxes are becoming more common in Massachusetts, and similar taxes have been in place in Newburyport and Haverhill since 2010. According to the state Department of Revenue, every city in Essex County currently has a local meals tax except for Amesbury and Lynn, which is also currently weighing whether to introduce one.