The Guilford County Board of Commissioners will have a lot on its plate next year and that could mean that there might be some brand new taxes on what’s on your plate when you go out to eat.
Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston said this week that he wants the commissioners and other elected leaders in the county to have a serious discussion in 2024 as to whether Guilford County should implement a new tax on prepared food sold in the county.
Alston said other local governments in the state had implemented that type of tax and had been able to use the added revenue stream to enhance life in those cities and counties and undertake important projects.
“I want to make it clear that I am not advocating for the tax yet,” Alston said, “but I think it is something we need to take a serious look at.”
He added that he believes there’s support for the new tax among many elected leaders in Guilford County.
He also said the county commissioners didn’t wish to put more of a financial burden on property owners and the good thing about a prepared food tax – which would be an extra charge placed when dinning out at restaurants, getting takeout, or, say, buying food from a food truck or a vendor at a sports event – is that the tax would not just be paid by county residents. It would also be paid by non-residents who came into Guilford County for a special event, or were passing through, or came from a surrounding county simply to enjoy a meal out in Greensboro or High Point.
“This would not apply to groceries you buy at the store,” the chairman noted, adding that he realized people were already up set buy food cost increases due to inflation.
Last year, City of Greensboro leaders began having some initial behind the scenes talks with state legislators about the possible implementation of a prepared food tax for the city, but residents can now expect a discussion about a countywide prepared food tax in 2024.
It’s something that the state legislature could put on the ballot for voters to decide, but another option would be for the county to request that the state legislature grant the Guilford County Board of Commissioners the option of voting the tax into existence without putting it on a ballot. In any case implementing a prepared food tax requires the approval of the state legislature, Guilford County can’t do it on its own.
Former Guilford County Commissioner Justin Conrad, who runs a restaurant supply business, went on record in early 2023 as saying he believes this is an absolutely terrible idea.
Conrad said then that struggling families often have no choice but to eat out or get takeout.
He also said in January that it’s not right to make an end-run around the voters.
“If you want the tax, put it on the ballot,” Conrad said, adding that he believes city leaders don’t see that as an option because area residents have shown that they will vote down a sales tax increase every time it shows up on the ballot.