Harrisonburg is one step closer to having a budget many aren't happy with.
Several local restaurant and hotel owners spoke out Tuesday at a City Council Meeting. They don't want to see an increase to the city's meals and lodging tax.
The Council plans to raise the meal and lodging tax to 6.5 percent.
Jenifer Jackson, with Virginia Hospitality and Travel, spoke first.
"Consumers are more price conscious than ever, and are now asking us what the total price is, and not what the pre-tax price is," Jackson said.
"We have a great motivation in our city right now, with our downtown growth, and also the city in general. Let's look at not impairing or putting any speed bumps in that growth," said Jeff Hill, co-owner Local Chop and Grill.
The Council considered other options, like an increase to the personal property. They even debated it during the session.
The idea of the meal tax is to spread it to visitors and take the burden off residents. Business owners say that's not the case.
"Although we do get our share of non-locals for our downtown restaurants, the core of our business is from residents," said
Sean Pugh, co-owner of the Joshua Wilton House.
While the Council listened to those concerns, they voted 4-1 (Councilman Kai Degner voted no) to approve the budget.
"We certainly don't have a fair option. I'm persuaded the more equitable thing to do is to spread this over a larger group," said Mayor Richard Baugh.
One thing they all agreed on, was the fact that the state put Harrisonburg in this situation with their budget. Some members also spoke about how they can't give their employees raises.
"The state can't treat us fairly. I'm not crying the blues, but that's just the way it is. I personally apologize for it. I wish there was something I could do," said Council Member Charles Chenault.
The budget totals nearly 200 million dollars. There's also a slight increase to the real estate tax as well. It's not officially passed yet. There's a second reading of it next month.
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