A small bite will be taken out of the wallets of patrons at La Vista restaurants beginning Oct. 1.
La Vista’s City Council approved a 1.5% restaurant and drinking places occupation tax during its Sept. 3 meeting. The council approved the tax by a 7-1 margin with Councilman Mike Crawford voting against the tax.
No one spoke during public comment before the vote was made and there was no discussion by council prior to the vote. One gentleman did speak against the tax during the public comment portion at the end of the meeting.
The proposed 1.5% tax would be calculated as a percentage of gross receipts of a restaurant or drinking place from the sale of food and beverages.
It would apply to any restaurant or drinking place such as cafes, bakeries, coffee shops, food trucks and caterers as well as restaurants or drinking places in grocery or convenience stores. It would apply to both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Money collected from the tax would be put toward the city’s general fund. La Vista projects it will collect up to $700,000 annually.
The one change from the original ordinance is that 2% of tax money collected will be returned to restaurant owners to help cover costs of processing debit and credit cards.
La Vista Mayor Doug Kindig said that while putting in another tax is something no one relishes, it is a necessary function as La Vista continues to progress.
“The investment in growth is costly,” he said. “We want to grow, but continue to provide the high level of services our citizens expect.”
Kindig pointed out that the biggest difference in this tax, as opposed to a property tax, is that the costs will be shared by non-residents.
“We’re not putting all of this burden on our citizens,” he said. “I have no doubt the majority of that money is going to come from residents of other cities. You look at our conference center hotel (Embassy Suites) and that’s probably 95 percent of people who don’t live in La Vista.
“Then with the new businesses we have coming in (as part of 84th Street redevelopment) I think it’s fairly accurate to say 70 to 80 percent of this will be covered by people outside of La Vista.”
La Vista residents voted in a half-cent sales tax increase in 2014. While adding another tax could change the perception of La Vista, Kindig is hopeful those people will understand the positives far outweigh the negatives.
“If I didn’t care what other people think of my city, I probably shouldn’t be mayor,” Kindig said. “It’s always an issue because some people say you tax too much, yet we provide great amenities and great fire and police. The perception to me is that La Vista is a safe place and provides programs to its residents and is able to do it and still be cost efficient for the taxpayers.
“We understand the concerns, but we also know we want to do what makes our city attractive. We want to continue to bring more people in to these places.”
With development along 84th Street, and what the city hopes is continued development in the western part of the La Vista, Kindig said it’s critical the city keeps an eye on the future.
“Someone a lot wiser than me once told me if you’re not growing, you’re dying,” he said.
“La Vista will continue to grow.”