EDINBURG - Candidates running for Shenandoah County treasurer weighed in on the proposed meals tax and other topics at a forum Thursday.
Treasurer Cindy George and District 3 representative on the Board of Supervisors Richard Walker participated in the event at the Charterhouse School in Edinburg ahead of the Nov. 5 election. Members of the audience submitted questions just before the forum.
Questions touched on a proposed countywide tax on prepared meals that will appear on the election ballot as a referendum question; office efficiency, management, and delinquent tax collections; and qualifications.
Candidates responded to the question of how would the meals tax, if passed, affect the operations of the Treasurer’s Office.
George read from notes and, in some cases, produced documents when she gave her responses. The passing of a meals tax is not the treasurer’s responsibility, George said.
“I have not taken a position to publicly convey how I feel about the meals tax because I’m not going to use that issue to try to unethically gain votes,” George said. “There are many resources out there for you to educate yourself on the issue and then vote as you see fit.
“The meals tax is gonna pass or fail by only you – the voter, not the candidate for treasurer,” George added. “If the meals tax is passed, I will work with the administrative office to make sure that it is collected and collected properly.”
George said she did not see that her office would need more employees to process meals tax collection.
Walker responded by saying he actively opposes the proposed meals tax. Walker explained his reasons for taking the position. The tax, he said, would not only raise the price of a meal but also increase the amount a business pays in swipe fees each time a customer uses a card to buy food.
“So I’ve opposed it as a citizen and I’ve opposed it as a member of the Board of Supervisors,” Walker said. “The Chamber of Commerce in California has opposed targeted taxes, saying they’re unreliable, they’re regressive and they’re unfair.”
Walker went on to say that a meals tax would have an adverse effect on fraternal organizations as they sell prepared food. Organizations would be required to collect a meals tax on the food they serve after they make a certain amount in a specific period of time.
“I agree that, if it passes, I will collect it if I am treasurer,” Walker said. “I will also take steps to make sure that those businesses are educated into how to compute and how to submit the taxes on a regular basis.”
George made a rebuttal to Walker’s response.
“He’s opposed to it as an individual you said and as a Board of Supervisors member,” George said. “He’s also opposed to it as a candidate for treasurer, trying to get you all to think that that is a treasurer position and it’s not.
“I’ll educate the businesses as well but I also have confidence that if they’re collecting the sales tax now, they won’t have any problem collecting meals tax,” George added.
Walker then rebutted George.
“I know there’s been a whole lot of stuff about the (campaign) signs,” Walker said. “They’re not my signs.
“They are signs that were designed and paid for by the Republican Party,” Walker went on to say.
Some audience members laughed or responded in disbelief at Walker’s comment. The moderator told the audience to refrain from causing a disruption.
“I was asked to approve my inclusion on (the signs) because it was going to be done countywide,” Walker said. “I did not design them. I did not pay for them. I did it because I had to contribute to the Republican Party. I did accept them ... in endorsing my candidacy. But they are not my signs.”
The candidates also responded to a question about the treasurer’s tax collection efforts. George said the office collection rates exceed 98 percent and the agency continues to work to collect delinquent taxes. Walker questioned the office’s inability to collect certain accounts in arrears totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. He also noted that Warren County has hired law firms to help collect delinquent taxes. George pointed out that the firms keep a percentage of the taxes collected.
The Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce, The Shenandoah County Education Association, the Farm Bureau of Shenandoah County and the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley hosted the third in a series of candidate forums. Chamber President-elect David Hutton moderated the Thursday forum and read the questions.