City may seek changes for meals tax

The City Council will consider whether to ask voters to renew the city's sales tax on prepared food and beverages until 2030 and make changes to the tax.

The council meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 E. Main St.

The council previously decided to ask voters in November whether they want to renew the 5 percent tax on prepared foods and drinks sold at restaurants, grocery store delis and catered events.

The tax will sunset in 2010 if it's not renewed. Currently, 80 percent of the tax goes to make debt payments for past upgrades to the sewage treatment plant, while 20 percent goes for park land purchases.

City staff members have suggested that voters be asked to renew the tax until 2030, with the City Council able to reduce or end the tax after a public hearing before that time.

Payments on current sewage treatment plant debt end in 2022, but the added years of revenue could pay for plant improvements needed in the future, staff said in a memo to councilors.

Staff members are proposing that 80 percent of the tax be used for capital projects including sewage needs. The remaining 20 percent could be used by the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department for buying land, planning and development for parks and major rehabilitation projects.

In more proposed changes to the tax, there would be a $400 cap on catered events that cost over $8,000.

Managers at the Ashland Springs Hotel and other businesses have said the city's tax puts them at a competitive disadvantage against businesses outside Ashland when they are trying to attract conferences, wedding parties and other large events.

Cafeterias at schools and Southern Oregon University would still not be subject to the tax. However, non-university vendors like Subway Sandwiches would have to collect the tax. Food service for non-university functions would also be taxed.

On Tuesday night, the council will once again take up the issue of whether to adopt new rules to protect areas around streams and wetlands in town.

After listening to the public during past meetings, the council has closed a public hearing and the record on the issue, meaning no more oral or written testimony from the public will be accepted.

Other items on the agenda include considering whether to:

  • ratify a new labor agreement between the city government and its clerical and technical workers with provisions that include no cost-of-living raises;
  • approve an exception to the city's noise rules to allow the Oregon Department of Transportation to conduct night work on Ashland Street, Interstate 5 and Exit 14 ramps from July 27 through July 30;
  • and extend the expiration date for development approvals since the current recession has left some developers unable to build approved projects.

For a complete list of agenda items and for details on each item, visit

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or

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