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Vigo County leaders discuss proposed food and beverage tax

A new direction for Vigo County lies in the power of a vote among the county council.

Posted: Jul. 2, 2018 10:53 PM

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) - A new direction for Vigo County lies in the power of a vote among the county council.

Plans have been in the works to build a convention center in Downtown Terre Haute, and local leaders are looking at a food and beverage tax to help pay for it. 

The tax would be a 1 percent fee and would only apply to dine-in and fast food restaurants, as well as prepared meals, hot bar items, buffets, prepared deli items and catered food. The tax would not apply to groceries, unprepared food and catering service. 

In May, Indiana lawmakers voted to approve the proposal for the tax in Vigo County. Governor Eric Holcomb signed off on the measure in June.

The ball now lies in the court of the county council, who will decide if the tax will happen in Vigo County. 

"At this time I'm for it if it's going to bring some health and strength to our community financially," said Dwayne Malone, taxpayer, "There was some talk from the mayor as far as doing this project, and then in the future these funds being used for other projects in our community, and that's the thing that gave me hope as far as looking at other projects." 

Malone said he's not opposed to the new tax, however, he wants to make sure local leaders do not overlook other projects in need of their attention. 

"Tax dollars is everybody's money, even the poor, they have to pay taxes," he said, "So this money should be used to uplift blighted and poor areas in our community."

Malone was one of several who came forward to the council with comments and concerns on Monday night. County Council members hosted a public hearing so the community could learn more about the proposed tax prior to the vote.

Council President Aaron Loudermilk says he's supportive of the tax and hopes other council members will consider voting in favor of it.

"I believe it's the right thing to do," Loudermilk said, "It's a necessary thing to do, it's a necessary thing to progress our community and give our community more opportunities."

"The elected officials in Indianapolis do not just hand out the chance for food and beverage," Loudermilk said, "So if we do not take full advantage, I'm afraid we're not going to have those opportunities in the future."

Loudermilk says there's a need for convention space in the county and with this opportunity, it could mean a large economic boost.

"I think we need an extra item to draw tourism into our county, and I think this is a catalyst to do just that," he said, "I think this is something that could benefit our community. I think it's something that will bring people here into our restaurants, into our hotels and support our local business owners, especially the ones downtown."

The proposed food and beverage tax comes at a time when there's a lot on the county council's plate, including building a new jail.

"You've got three high schools that need to be renovated, you have the food and beverage with the convention center, and then also we have a jail that we have to construct," he said, "There has been a lot on our plate, especially as new council members having our first year last year, but that's the hand we're dealt. We knew when we ran for this office that we were going to have all these considerations in play, and that's just something we have to deal with."

Another special meeting will be held this Thursday, July 5th, at 4:00 p.m. at the Vigo County Annex. Council members will not vote on the tax at that meeting. 

Thursday's meeting will be to hear the first reading of the proposed ordinance for the tax. The council's vote will come at a later date.

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