There’s been a lot of talk recently among local elected leaders about the need for a new 1 percent prepared food tax, but the good news for those opposed to it is that – even though there’s currently quite a bit of political will among elected leaders for the tax – it looks now like it’s a no-go until at least 2026.

Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston and Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan are both advocates of implementing the prepared food tax; however, Alston said this week that he believes several political realities mean it won’t be approved until at least two years from now.

The 1 percent tax would apply to food purchases at restaurants, small eateries, food trucks and similar vendors where people purchase prepared food items.

Alston is an advocate for the new countywide 1 percent tax, but he said it’s unlikely citizens will see it anytime soon.

For one thing, he said, the NC General Assembly must grant permission for the county, or for the City of Greensboro, to either put the prepared tax on the ballot for citizens to approve, or to allow the county commissioners or the City Council members to approve it themselves with no vote of the people.

State legislators could, for instance, grant the City of Greensboro the right to implement the tax by a vote of the Greensboro City Council, but that tax would only apply within the City of Greensboro.

Alston said Guilford County voters won’t see the option on the ballot this November because the county is focused on getting local voters to approve a quarter-cent sales tax increase to hike pay for school system employees.

He added that he doesn’t think the NC General Assembly would take the matter under consideration in the spring short session.

 Alston also said the prepared food tax is something that ideally should be decided by county voters and, since there will be no countywide election next year, a countywide version of the tax would have to be decided in a 2026 ballot referendum at the earliest.

Alston also said he thinks it’s unlikely that – even if the state grants the Guilford County commissioners or the Greensboro City Council members the right to impose the tax themselves, with no vote of the people – the votes are not there on either the board or the council to instate the tax on prepared food.

“Do we need it? Yes,” the chairman said. “Is it something we should have? Yes.  Other places have it and we could use the proceeds to put on more events and put more heads in beds. I know we need it, but I think it should be put before the voters.”

Alston said that, with the proper state approval, the City of Greensboro would have the ability to pick its own course of action and impose the tax on restaurants and food vendors within the city; however, he added that it’s his understanding that Greensboro City Council members would like to see the tax levied countywide and implemented by the county commissioners or county voters rather than only in Greensboro by the City Council itself.