QUINCY -- As Quincy's elected leaders consider moving forward with plans to propose a 2% food and beverage tax, residents are already speaking out about the proposal that is expected to generate $1.5 million for the city per year for its pension programs.
According to documents from Quincy City Hall, a proposed food and beverage tax would be applied to any food or alcoholic beverages sold by a business such as a restaurant, cafe or tavern. The tax would not apply to food or drinks sold at churches, public or private schools, boardinghouses, day care centers, nursing homes, retirement centers or residential care facilities. The tax also would not be applied to food purchased from vending machines or grocery stores.
Numerous other cities have a food and beverage tax, including Decatur, Moline, Palatine and Galesburg, which in 2016 generated $1.58 million on a 2% food and beverage tax.
Art Leite, who lives on Ridgewood Drive, said a food and beverage tax was a "sensible and fair way to generate income" for the city. While he acknowledged that the tax would primarily be paid by residents, he said a large number of non-residents eat regularly at Quincy's restaurants.
Quincy officials say as many as 40% of the city's restaurant and bar patrons are not residents.
Leite said one of the biggest reasons he supports a food and beverage tax is that non-Quincy residents would be paying the tax as well, which he says is a point that critics of the proposed tax are ignoring.
"I really think they are concentrating on just Quincy residents paying this tax, but that is not the case," Leite said. "No one in Missouri is going to pay Quincy's property taxes, but people in Missouri will pay this food and beverage tax when they come here to eat in our restaurants. To me, this is a no-brainer."
Meanwhile, Jonathan Brown, who lives in the 1800 block of Kentucky Street, said he had some concerns about the proposed tax.
"It seems like bad timing with all of the other taxes that we are hearing about," Brown said. He said he was referring to Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker's proposed graduated income tax plan and his plans to increase motor vehicle fuel taxes.
Even with what he calls bad timing, Brown said he is not opposed to the possible food and beverage tax, especially if the revenue from the tax is used to fund pensions for the city's police and fire departments.
Jason Jobe, who lives in the 2700 block of Lind Street, had similar thoughts.
"It couldn't be for a better cause," Jobe said. "They deserve their pensions."
In a recent meeting with the Quincy City Council, City Treasurer Linda Moore said the city would no longer be able to rely on money from the General Fund to meet the pension obligations dictated to the city by the state.
Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore said state lawmakers have passed legislation requiring cities to have fund pensions at 90% by 2041. Moore also said that state law requires that the city to offer pensions to public safety personnel rather than a traditional 401(k) or other retirement savings program.
An analysis by the city treasurer's office showed the city would need to pay $10.2 million to the pension plans by 2025, an increase from the $8.8 million it is expected to pay this year. Currently, the city has about $84 million in unfunded liabilities for its pension program.
Aldermen have said that depending on what actuarial reports reveal this fall, they might have to raise property taxes by 22 percent for next year.
Three Quincy residents -- Gayle Sommers, who lives in the 2200 block of York Street, Warren Taylor, who lives in the 500 block of North Eighth Street, and Penny Brewer, who lives in the 2800 block of Elm Street -- said they would prefer the aldermen pass the food and beverage tax rather than approve a double-digit property tax.
Sommers said, "I would not be opposed to paying a little more when I go out to eat." She said she and her husband eat at restaurants in Quincy as many as five times per week and the proposed 2% tax would have little impact on their dining habits.
Some of those who support the food and beverage tax proposal said they are urging aldermen to create the tax in advance of the summer tourism season rather than waiting until the fall when the actuarial report is released.
Leite said waiting until later in the fall made little sense.
"I think it should be implemented right away because every single year this same type of conversation comes up, and then nothing happens," Leite said. "Well, now is the time to do something."