Meals Tax Disproportionately Hits Families

Guest Post by Elizabeth Schultz

Ostensibly, the Meals Tax Referendum is designed to drive more money into the Fairfax County Public Schools budget to offset the dependency on the individual taxpayer’s personal property taxes.

The Meals Tax Referendum requires no prioritization of spending policies by FCPS, just ‘promises’ – does not guarantee – more taxpayer-generated revenue.

However, there is no decrease to the property tax, only an additional tax increase on food in a county where residents have experienced stagnant wages, slow growth in home values, sequestration and the roll back of high-paying jobs. The combined effect of these has further unbalanced family incomes in the face of a consistent high cost of living.

An increased Meals Tax disproportionately hits families, taxing not just restaurant meals – which families have already scaled back on – but also the prepared items in grocery stores, super-marts, membership clubs and convenience stores. Families take advantage of prepared items because they are trying to meet the demands of schedules complicated by working, commuting, and student athletics and activities.

Fairfax County has also been directly impacted by policies at the local, state and national level which have substantially changed our county’s population. Notably, from FY2009 to FY2017, the student population grew 11.0%, from 168,384 to 186,842.

In the same period of time, the eligibility for Free and Reduced Meals (FRM) increased 45.8%, from 35,750 to 52,129 students. While the FRM student population, a poverty indicator, grew at four times the student population growth, the regular price of meals served to students who do not qualify for Free and Reduced Meals increased 20.0% for elementary lunches and 23.1% for middle and high school lunches.

It appears that the governing of Fairfax County involving the creation and enforcement – or lack of enforcement – of policies pertaining to housing, taxation, land use, transportation, education and economic development, has drastically changed the taxpayer and student population base according the FCPS Capital Improvement Plans over time.

Further taxing a population which is increasing in its poverty statistics is the last thing that will help Fairfax when those who are already struggling to remain here are doing so under subsidies while the balance of the population who have and continue to bear the cost of those subsidies is decreasing.

The households supported by a single income, two-working parent families and FCPS’ own employees, teachers, instructional assistants, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and support personnel all will be directly impacted by this additional tax increase – as well as the apparent on-going increase of families living in poverty in Fairfax County.

Vote NO on The Meals Tax Referendum: increasing taxes is something we just can’t afford.

-Elizabeth L. Schultz
Fairfax County School Board
Springfield District

This is provided in my individual capacity and does not reflect the position taken by the full Board.


Elizabeth Schultz is a member of the Fairfax County School Board. You can follow Elizabeth on Twitter @ThinkSchultz