Earlier this year, the Rhino Times reported on some prominent local people in the restaurant business who were worried about a 1-cent prepared food tax coming to Guilford County.

Now it’s crystal clear that those fears were fully warranted.

The Greensboro City Council began discussing the matter recently and, on Saturday, June 24, Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston said he favors the tax that would be a surcharge on food items served at restaurants, fast food businesses and food trucks, etc., throughout the county.

That added 1-cent tax would apply whether the prepared food was dine in or take out,  and it would also apply to drinks sold at restaurants and bars in Guilford County. The new tax would be over and above the sales tax currently tacked onto restaurant meals and related food items.

Alston’s view is key because he is a chairman of the county commissioners and carries a great deal of influence over the Democratic majority of that board.

When Alston was asked if he expected to back the proposed new food tax he said “Yes,” but he added that it depended on how the money would be distributed.

“The African American community must get its fair share of the funds it will generate,” he said.

When Alston was asked if that meant he felt as though African Americans in the county currently are not getting their fair share of county government services, he said he did not mean to imply that.  He said that, going forward, however, with regard to a new 1-cent prepared food tax, there should be guardrails in place to see that the black community gets its share of the proceeds.

In January of this year, sources in Guilford County government told the Rhino Times that City of Greensboro leaders had initiated conversations exploring the willingness of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners to allow Greensboro to levy a prepared food tax in order to help the city pay the costs of the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts and other entertainment and nightlife initiatives.

The move would require approval from the NC General Assembly and the Guilford County commissioners.  While Alston’s support is critical for approval from the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, Alston is a Democrat and Republicans have veto proof majorities in both houses of the legislature which means Alston’s influence in Raleigh is limited.

However, a majority of commissioners already appear to be willing to take the city’s request one step further and apply it to the entire county.

Advocates of the prepared food tax say it has raised significant money in other large cities in the state and has helped support important entertainment and nightlife projects that in turn get more people out to restaurants.

Former Guilford County Commissioner Justin Conrad, who runs a restaurant supply business, said back in January that he was greatly disturbed by the proposed new tax.

Conrad said struggling families often have no choice but to eat out or get takeout – so the tax can hit some who can afford it the least.

Back in January, Conrad also said it’s not right to make an end-run around the voters.

“If you want the tax, put it on the ballot,” Conrad said.

Guilford County voters continue to vote down a sales tax increases even though county leaders keep putting sales tax referendums on the ballot every few years.