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Marlborough committee tables talks on tavern tax

METRO WEST DAILY NEWS – A City Council subcommittee tabled a discussion on Tuesday night on a measure that would boost the tax paid by diners at local eateries and raise money for athletic field projects in the city.

The Legislative and Legal Affairs Committee, in one of two likely meetings on the meals tax proposal, heard a presentation Tuesday night from the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation lobbying for passage of the new municipal tax.

The plan would institute a .75 percent local tax on meals purchased at restaurants, piggybacking on the existing state 6.25 percent meals tax diners already pay. The proposal, from City Council President Patricia Pope and Ward 1 Councilor Joseph Delano, calls for using the local meals tax receipts to pay for athletic field construction, restoration and maintenance.

Committee members on Tuesday night were presented with letters of support for the new tax from local businesses, including the owners of 21 restaurants in the city, the owners of the Embassy Suites, Best Western and Courtyard by Marriott hotels, the owner of Fore Kicks and the President and CEO of Special Olympics Massachusetts.

Tim Cummings, MEDC executive director, told the committee that if the tax was in place, Marlborough would have collected an estimated $757,000 in fiscal 2012 and an estimated $754,000 the year before. The tax would also have minimal impact on diners, with the new tax adding 75 cents to the bottom line of a $100 check at a restaurant.

Cummings said that most towns and cities around Marlborough with a restaurant industry have instituted the local tax option, which in fiscal 2012 netted $1.3 million for Framingham, $851,000 for Natick, $590,000 for Westborough and anywhere from about $115,000 to $354,000 in a handful of other surrounding towns.

Cummings also said that with the tax going to a fund to benefit local fields, the city could push a “buy local” campaign when it comes to eating out.

While many of the six councilors in attendance Tuesday night said they like the idea, a few had concerns.

Ward 3 Councilor Matt Elder, who is pushing for an alternate proposal to pay for fields out of other accounts, and Councilor at Large Kathleen Robey, both said they are worried about adding another tax. Robey said that Massachusetts already ranks near the top when it comes to meals taxes. Both said they wanted to see a lot more detail on how the money would be spent should the tax be approved and what projects would be at the top of the priority list.

Cummings said that a consulting firm is already working on an athletic fields needs assessment which should be available in a few weeks. Legislative and Legals Affairs Chairman Robert Seymour said he doesn’t envision planning for field projects to be done by the City Council – he said he would prefer that work to be left to some sort of advisory committee that would submit projects to the council for consideration.

The committee hasn’t yet scheduled another meeting on the tax plan.

This article originally appeared here.