Expect to start paying a little more each time you dine out – but even more in bigger cities around the state. Many South Shore communities are putting off any discussions on a local meals tax increase until this fall, while larger cities like Boston, Cambridge and Newton already have tax-hike proposals in the works.
Expect to start paying a little more each time you dine out – but even more in bigger cities around the state.
Many South Shore communities are putting off any discussions on a local meals tax increase until this fall, while larger cities like Boston, Cambridge and Newton already have tax-hike proposals in the works.
Like the sales tax, the statewide meals tax goes up Saturday from 5 to 6.25 percent. As part of the state budget passed last month, cities and towns may levy an additional “local option” meals tax, hiking it by three-quarters of a percentage point more.
Most local communities can’t do anything until town meetings start up again next month. But even then, towns reluctant to step into the water first may instead wait to see which way the tax tide turns.
“I’ve been talking to other managers and everyone is a little reluctant to bring it forward,” said Rocco Longo, Marshfield’s town administrator. “I’m going to listen and observe the other towns and see if anyone makes a move locally.”
Larger South Shore municipalities with the most to gain from a local meals tax – Quincy, Braintree and Weymouth – have no such measures on the table.
The Braintree Town Council, which is expected to vote next month to increase the local hotel tax, has found no support for the local meals tax, fearing it would hurt the town’s restaurants too much.
On Friday, spokesmen for Weymouth Mayor Sue Kay and Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch said the mayors are discussing the tax option with other officials in their communities.
“Prior to the council’s summer break, the mayor did suggest that everyone take the time to take a solid look and review anything on the table,” said Koch spokesman Chris Walker. “No formal decision has been made yet.”
Municipal leaders are citing the economy as reasons for and against the local tax hikes. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, whose tax proposal is going to the city council next week, argues that state aid cuts have left the city desperate for new revenue sources.
But Marshfield’s Longo said the economic environment is reason enough to hesitate.
“I have an obligation to bring it forward (to selectmen),” he said, “but my sense is because the economic situation is so bad, we really need to look at the impact of new revenue.”
Although the statewide sales and meals tax increases go into effect Saturday, cities and towns cannot implement any local option tax until Oct. 1.
Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association – an advocacy group for cities and towns – predicts that bigger cities will move first, and others will eventually follow.
“It will unfold over the course of the next several months to a year,” Beckwith said.
“Communities are obviously going to be in communications with each other and monitoring what happens statewide.”
Reach Nancy Reardon at firstname.lastname@example.org.