Meal tax appetizing for Cayce

tflach@thestate.comMarch 11, 2013 

— A meal tax is on the menu in Cayce.

City Council agreed Monday to explore the idea, with some members eyeing adoption as soon as this fall.

Their appetite for the tax comes after city manager Rebecca Rhodes said a new source of money is needed for ideas like a history park as well as operation of the local museum and upkeep of the path along the Congaree River.

The proposed tax of 2 cents on the dollar would apply to dining out, take-out food and snacks.

It is estimated to generate $670,000 a year for the community of 12,500 residents.

Council members plan to spend six months gathering reaction to the idea after offering a list of projects the tax could benefit.

“We need to get buy-in to this plan,” Councilman Tim James said.

It’s time to look at the tax, Mayor Elise Partin agreed. “I’m ready to go,” she said.

Some restaurateurs predict it will win acceptance.

“It’s such an insignificant amount that it doesn’t matter to most people.” Sub Station owner Chris Kueny said.

Diners are getting used to paying a bit extra in many Midlands communities for local projects, said Gregg Pinner, executive director of the West Metro Chamber of Commerce.

If the tax is adopted, Cayce would be the only community in Lexington County with it. Lexington repealed a similar tax in 2005 after less than two years.

Cayce leaders are going to approach adjoining West Columbia to put a similar tax in place to assure restaurants in neither community are at a disadvantage. “It would be foolish to do it without West Columbia participating,” Pinner said.

Its’ too soon to say if West Columbia will follow suit, Mayor Joe Owens said “I’m not advocating any tax at this point,” he said.

Cayce’s push for the meal tax comes after Rhodes said federal and state aid that paid for building and operating recreation projects and landscaping roads is disappearing.

“I’m out of rabbits” to make those projects happen, she said.

Approval of the meal tax rests with the five council members.

Its adoption comes with one caveat.

It would automatically be reduced to a penny on the dollar, city attorney Danny Crowe said, if voters countywide later approve a proposal for a separate sales tax for roads, sewers and other projects.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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