Correction: This story has been modified from its original version. — The article has been modified from its original version to reflect a more accurate discription of the meals tax application. The Collegiate Times regrets this error.
At Virginia Tech’s home football game versus East Carolina University, Tech charged the local Blacksburg meals tax on concessions for the first time.
Supporters of the tax called it a step for local businesses toward leveling the playing field with the university.
The meals tax in Blacksburg is six percent and is added on top of the Virginia sales tax rate of five percent, meaning off-campus restaurants add 11 percent tax to their customer’s bill.
The local meals tax would be only applied at on-campus dining halls for cash or credit purchases. The tax does not apply to purchases made with student dining plans.
“I think it’s very unfair that those places don’t have to pay meals tax.” Ranae Gillie, owner of Gillie’s and Bollo’s, said.
Gillie said that not having to pay the tax makes the on-campus dining harder to compete with.
“When I went to college there were no fancy food places on campus. It was the dining hall,” Gillie said. “That I don’t think should be taxed.”
Paying the local meals tax is optional for Virginia’s 15 public universities, but Tech is the only university that opts out.
“The money is needed to help the community, and it’s a community effort,” Gillie said. “If Virginia Tech wants to be part of the community, then they also have to contribute.”
Not all businesses on campus have decided to take advantage of this policy. Burger King, when it occupied the Johnston Student Center, opted to collect the local meals tax.
Gillie said local taxes help pay for essential services, such as road maintenance and law enforcement, that the students use like full-time residents.
The Blacksburg government is currently discussing the issue with the university.
“The town and the university have a very unique working relationship,” said Blacksburg mayor Ron Rordam. “We’re just trying to sort out where we need to go to reach an agreement.”
“But I want to make clear that we are not trying to tax meal plans,” Rordam said.
Breslau said most of the students she spoke with didn’t notice local businesses had to collect taxes the university did not, and they were willing to do their share by paying the meals tax.
“It’s a matter of awareness,” Breslau said.
Tech’s spokesman Larry Hincker said that the university is currently preparing an official response to the issue but gave no timetable for the release of the response.