by Carla Bream
The City of Roanoke held a press conference at the Honey Baked Ham restaurant on Broadway Avenue, an Eat for Education participant, to announce their year-to-date results of the Eat for Education campaign. The city’s two percent meals tax provides the funds for the program.
Mayor David Bowers congratulated city councilman Court Rosen for proposing the meals tax and pushing the idea through. Bowers said, “It was a very bold and courageous move to add a tax during a downturn in the economy.” Bowers confirmed that dining dollars are making a difference and reported that through April 2011 the two percent meals tax increase has generated more than $3.7 million in revenue, which is 4.5% ahead of budget projections. For April 2011 alone, the meals tax brought in $376,102.
Mayor Bowers said he has heard nothing but positive comments from citizens inside and outside of the city, and he would like to keep the momentum going and to continue the program.
Currently 35 restaurants in the city have signed up to participate in the program, giving their diners a chance to enter a monthly drawing for a $50 gift certificate to use at any participating establishment. Eat for Education is a voluntary, opt-in program for restaurants. If they sign up, they can use the program in their marketing plans to show they support education. They also can display a window logo and are listed on the programs website.
Dr. Rita Bishop, Superintendent of Roanoke City Public Schools, thanked the public for supporting the program and listed some of its accomplishments. The school system has been able to have smaller class sizes, order new textbooks and classroom materials, offer a full summer school program and initiate a summer reading camp for grades K-2. Over 400 students are already signed up for the camp this summer, with more being added every day.
In June of 2012, the meals tax will expire. Dr. Bishop said, “While it has been very beneficial for the city schools, it is only a two year tax and will expire. I believe firmly that when you say two years, you mean two years. It is the council’s decision, not mine.” She said she will not advocate for an extension or renewal of the program.