By Sara Brown, Contributing Writer
SOUTHBOROUGH – Southborough is considering implementing a new sales tax on meals sold at restaurants.
This will be one of the warrant articles voted on at Town Meeting next month. This article will require all local restaurants to charge an additional .75 percent in meals tax, which will come back to the town as unallocated revenue through State Local Aid.
The local meals tax has been identified as an additional revenue source to help alleviate increases to residential property taxes.
Advisory Chair Kathryn Cook has said she’s discussed the issue with restaurants in town. Almost everyone was OK with the new tax, she reported.
The tax would only impact restaurant-goers, as restaurants themselves would just need to update their machines to add the new tax to patrons’ bills when and if voters adopt this warrant article.
Still, given the major impact COVID-19 has had on the restaurant industry, the Board of Selectmen wanted to make sure they give local restaurants enough time to adjust to this change in the event that it takes effect.
Board of Selectmen Chair Martin Healey suggested during an April 13 meeting that if the warrant is adopted at Town Meeting, it shouldn’t be implemented until January 2022.
“The thought is to do everything we possibly can for businesses to have smooth sailing when they get back on their feet again,” he said.
Cook believed the town advisory committee would be in favor of that and, when speaking with selectmen, said she specifically sought support for the warrant article’s prediction that it could generate $125,000 for the town.
She said this would not only impact residents, but residents from other towns that like to frequent Southborough’s restaurants. That would bring money into town, generating revenue from out-of-town taxpayers who don’t otherwise contribute to Southborough’s coffers.
Selectmen Brian Shea supported the measure but believes it will take time for the town to enjoy the full benefits of this since he believes many who visit the town’s restaurants also work in the town as well.
“I think it’s going to be a long time before businesses fully ramp up,” he said.
Shea further said he believes some businesses might opt to stay remote even after COVID.
The advisory committee voted to support the meal tax at Town Meeting. The Board of Selectmen will be discussing all warrant articles at a separate meeting later this month.