Should the town adopt the local meals tax as a permanent revenue stream for special projects or other use?

Jam session is an opinion forum offering comments on issues from a group of Plymouth residents. It appears on the Forum pages in the Weekend edition of the OCM.

The newspaper poses a question to the group each week, and participants choose whether to comment. This column is designed to bring the voices of well-informed residents into the Forum page to address issues, one at a time.

Participants cross the local political spectrum and live throughout the town. Some are current or past Town Meeting representatives, and all are active in the community. We hope their diverse points of view will encourage discussion of the issues Plymouth faces.

 

This week's question

It appears that projections by town Finance Director Lynne Barrett will come true, that the few-year-old .75 percent local meals tax will likely completely fund construction of the new town hall. When that project is paid for, a sunset clause will repeal that meals tax. Should the town adopt it as a permanent revenue stream for special projects or other use?

 

Pat Adelmann

Yes, the town should permanently adopt the 0.75 percent meals tax to fund specified projects only. It is a painless revenue. Great caution should be taken to never depend on this convenient revenue stream for the general operating budget.

Pat Adelmann has been a Plymouth resident for 39 years and is a mother of five Plymouth Public School graduates, a proud grandmother of 12, a former School Committee member and a former Town Meeting representative.

 

Ed Angley

Yes, the town should adopt the local meals tax as a permanent revenue stream. But, it should only be used for capital outlays. If it goes into the general revenue, the town meeting, which is undisciplined, will spend it.

Ed Angley is an attorney specializing in zoning and land use. He is a former Scout leader and coach.

 

Jay Beauregard

Just goes to show that the conservatives are right. Once a tax gets implemented it “ain’t gonna go nowhere.” Of course it should be stopped, but I bet it won’t be.

To those of you who like to always say “it’s only a cup of coffee,” well how about allowing the people to have the option of buying just one more cup of coffee instead of taking that cup away.

Which reminds me. The Mass Pike tolls. Weren’t those supposed to go away once the bonds were paid off? That’s what we were told, but the politicians keep issuing new bonds over and over. That tax will never go away. But it will get bigger and bigger.

Jay Beauregard, born and raised in Plymouth, served four years in the Marine Corps and has worked for 36 years at a local company. He is a Libertarian who served three terms as a Town Meeting rep from Precinct 6.

 

Jeff Berger

The minuscule meals tax is unnoticeable to diners, is paid for largely by tourists, and is a huge win-win for the town. Sadly, some day we will have a major hurricane here again ... a blizzard worse than ‘78 ... or a forest fire that devastates South Plymouth. Lord only knows what might happen if by some terrible twist of fate Pilgrim is sold to another operator, and they elect to keep it operating with the stupid NRC’s complete blessing. Anything can happen and we need a large rainy day fund to make sure we’re ready, whatever it is. On a positive note it could be used to finance deed research on the mammoth South Plymouth parcel where “Hollywood East” was to go; develop it as a major new industrial park, which the town badly needs; and market it heavily – not to mention infused 2020 marketing. Keep it – it would be crazy to do otherwise.

A Plymouth resident for more than 35 years, Jeff Berger is founder and owner of JMB Communications / websitesthatworkusa.com and everythingsxm.com, and is a former member of Plymouth’s Nuclear Matters Committee and chairs the Cable Advisory Committee.

 

Rick Caproni

The meals tax is a simple and effective way to raise funds for any number of projects. I supported this tax at Town Meeting and am happy to pay when I go out to eat.

What I hate to pay is $2,000/quarter or $8,000/year in real estate taxes.

Lynne Barrett original estimates were much too low. I don’t know if her conservative estimates serve us well. Accurate and spot-on estimates would be more useful.

Town Meeting should and probably will repeal the sunset clause as they typically approve more and more taxes year after year. Special projects are plentiful. Help pay the huge sewer bill of $42+ million with the meals tax rather than the 50,000 citizens outside the sewer district who will be required to pay for somebody else’s garbage. Infrastructure such as roads and bridges could use this money. Additionally, maybe we could eliminate the CPA tax and fund those projects through the meals tax. Of course adding the revenue to normal town finances would always be a good idea.

Repealing a tax will never happen in 21st century Plymouth.

Rick Caproni is a Town Meeting representative from Precinct 15, a retired equipment leasing executive and a self described political activist.

 

Mike Landers

Town Meeting was wise to accept Lynne Barrett’s brilliant plan to pay for the Town Hall project in such a creative way. Town meeting was brilliant to vote it in with a sunset clause.

It had a beginning, an end and a specified purpose. Taxpayers will not see a bump in their taxes. The reason it was voted through with a wide majority was because of the sunset clause.

The reason for the sunset clause was to protect taxpayers from a tax increase masquerading as something other than a tax increase.

Do I think that Town Meeting will vote a similar override in the future? Probably. Given the success of this one, it shows that creative thinking, out of the box, can move the town forward, while not fleecing taxpayers. It will be up to the town to bring another needed project forward that Town Meeting can believe in. I’m sure that it will have to pass our litmus test, with lengthy debate and certainly have a sunset clause. We are not trying to feed the General Fund.

Bravo to all who made this a success. Our biggest concern at Fall Town Meeting could very well be over hours of operation at Town Hall, not how to fund a building project of monumental need and astronomical costs. Job well done on this one. Hopefully it will silence some of the naysayers on social media who swore that the town was lying and predicted that the taxpayer would ultimately pay.

Mike Landers is a Town Meeting representative and is the founder and producer of Project Arts of Plymouth. He is also the owner of Nightlife Music Company and is a performing musician.

 

Doug O’Roak

When the county offered the courthouse for sale a decade ago, the debate was harsh. Folks were of the mind the town would never find a purpose for the building, it would be a money pit, taxes would increase, and only a private developer could handle the property.

It took three tries to pass the meals tax.

The town was able to repurpose it as a magnificent Town Hall just shy of our 400th anniversary, and the funding is provided mainly by tourists and won’t affect property taxes. Amazing.

Hats off to everyone involved. It took years, a lot of fight, many hands, but it’s getting done and will be a crown jewel for our town.

Should we rescind the meals tax after the sunset? I don’t think so. I haven’t noticed the few cents when I buy a meal. I think of the meals tax as a sort of roundup that invests in our town.

This debate has gone on so long, I remember an early anti meals tax argument that folks would stop buying rotisserie chicken from Skippy’s because the tax affected prepared foods, and Dunkin’ Donuts would close because folks wouldn’t pay extra for coffee. It seems to me all of our restaurants and shops are doing just fine.

Doug O’Roak is creative director at C/F Data Systems, a member of the Open Space and Charter Review committees and a Town Meeting rep. He has served on several boards and committees and is past master of Plymouth’s Masonic Lodge.

 

David Peck

Way too soon to consider this question. For one, while it is great that we are ahead of projections right now, there will be economic cycles that depress the meals tax annual income, bringing us back to the long term projection. And secondly, the projections cover decades, assuming payoff of all borrowed money far into the future. In other words, let’s get this project paid off first before we consider other, future uses for the revenue. We should know well before final payoff of New Town Hall borrowing whether it’s time to let the sun set, or keep it shining on other uses.

David Peck is the retired director of Facility Planning at Boston Children's Hospital. He serves as the chairman of the Plymouth Building Committee and vice-chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals. He is a Town Meeting representative from Precinct 4.

 

Ed Russell

I voted for that meals tax for two reasons. One, it was mostly paid for by tourists eating meals in Plymouth and thus paying for most of our new town hall – pretty nice. The second reason is that it was time limited to one project and one project only. I do not support making this a permanent revenue stream because annual spending would automatically increase to match. I’d rather support its use for big, necessary one-time projects that would otherwise be painful. Mostly I want every subsequent meals tax proposal to have full and lengthy discussion with a vote at town meeting. Yes, it might well be that we’d see an unending series of such projects, but at least each one would require extensive discussion, wrangling and compromise.

Speaking of future projects, I wonder if it could be used to cover the sewer costs that will soon be upon us, though I don’t know how we’d then handle accounting for the eventual proceeds from the town’s lawsuit against Veolia, and secondly, would the town hall project end soon enough to enable another meals tax project so soon?

Ed Russell is an attorney and a Precinct 12 Town Meeting representative, and he serves on a number of town committees.

 

Richard Serkey

I see no good reason why not to adopt it as a permanent revenue stream for special projects or other use.

Richard M. Serkey has been a Plymouth resident and a Plymouth attorney since 1974. He is a former zoning board chairman and is the current Precinct 2 town meeting chairman. He serves as counsel to the Plymouth Public Library Corporation.

 

Roger Silva

First it should go away! If it is just continued without public input and a vote, what other nice to do projects will they come up with? If they want to keep it, maybe it should become a rainy day fund and when they want to use it, they have it go to Town Meeting for a vote and debate. If they vote yes, it should automatically go on the ballot!

Roger Silva is a former five-term Plymouth selectman who began public service as an elected Town Meeting member. He has served on the Advisory and Finance Committee and two charter commissions.