EDINBURG – Candidates vying for a seat on the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors gave opposing views on a proposed meals tax at a forum Thursday.
Brad Pollack and F. Coe Sherrard participated in the forum for the candidates running for the District 3 seat on the Board of Supervisors. Pollack is the Republican Party candidate and Sherrard is running as an independent. Current District 3 Supervisor Richard Walker will not seek another term on the board but instead is running against Treasurer Cindy George for treasurer.
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 candidate forum at the Charterhouse School in Edinburg. Chamber President-elect David Hutton read from the questions submitted by audience members at the beginning of the forum.
Question topics ranged from their qualifications for the board seat and how they would approach economic development to the proposed meals tax and the legal situation in Warren County involving its economic development authority and elected and appointed officials.
The moderator asked why or why not is it a good idea for the county to impose a meals tax. Pollack said a meals tax is not a good idea. He noted that the tax captures intercounty and interstate traffic. Pollack called the meals taxes “highway robbery.”
He went on to say that most of the businesses that serve food and would collect a meals tax in District 3 cater to local residents made to pay the 4% levy.
“Those people that go eat those meals at the country stores on a regular basis are the people who can afford it the least,” Pollack said. “It’s called a regressive tax. It’s something we should all try to avoid.”
Sherrard pointed out that voters would decide the fate of the proposed meals tax before either candidate takes office. He went on to note that he and his wife, who owned the Woodstock Cafe & Shoppes for 15 years, know about a meals tax. He said he doesn’t like meals taxes or occupancy taxes.
“Why is it that government always picks on restaurants and hotels?” Sherrard asked. “But that’s an argument for another playing field.
“But since they do, once you have a meals tax and it’s in 80% of the restaurants in our county, any damage that’s done by people quitting going out to eat because a meal went up by 40 cents or 50 cents or 20 cents has already occurred,” Sherrard added. “So meals tax isn’t anything new. It’s here already.
“It’s not going to make somebody not go out to eat,” Sherrard said. “It’s not going to impact the business. They don’t pay the tax; they collect the tax.”
The point-of-sale machines that calculate the sales tax can do the same with a meals tax, Sherrard explained.
Another question touched on the legal matters involving Warren County government officials and the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority.
“Do we need more oversight after the Warren County EDA fiasco?” the moderator asked.
“Am I allowed to cuss in here?” Sherrard responded. “It scares the hell out of me.
“I’ve talked to (County Supervisor) Evan Vass and our attorney and said ‘could that ever happen in our county’ and they have assured me that we have systems in place and procedures in place so that can’t happen,” Sherrard said. “But I’m sure they didn’t think that it was gonna happen in Warren County either.
“Do I think we need more oversight?” Sherrard went on to say. “I think we have the oversight. I think we have to be smart, learn the lessons that Warren County has already learned.”
Pollack echoed Sherrard.
“I don’t have a cuss word but it’s mind-blowing what’s happened over there and I don’t get it,” Pollack said. “I don’t see how that could’ve been going on with people being tipped off that something was going wrong and nobody did anything.
“It’s why every member of the Board of Supervisors in Warren County was indicted,” Pollack added. “So I’d like to think, and from my experience with open government and exposing things in Shenandoah County, that that would never happen under our watch.”