Eating up deficits

with depleted coffers forcing belt-tightening at all levels of government, it would make sense that officials, especially at the local level, would grab onto any chance to pick up a few more pennies to avoid service cuts.

But like their Beacon Hill counterparts, many municipal officials are leery of any additional tax, particularly if it puts them at a competitive disadvantage.

According to the Department of Revenue, only 108 of the state’s 352 communities have adopted the .75 percent local option surcharge on the state meals tax approved by the Legislature a year ago. According to the Massachusetts Municipal Association, at least 10 other municipalities have flatly rejected the surcharge. The remainder have either taken no action or, perhaps, quietly considered it and then thought better of asking their residents and visitors to pony up an extra 7.5 cents when purchasing a $10 pizza.

The early adopters are concentrated in Greater Boston and areas of Cape Cod and western Massachusetts. Boston stands to gain the most from the surcharge, an extra $11.3 million over the course of a full year, while Cam­bridge will net $1.9 million, Worcester $1.2 million, and Nan­tucket $494,000. DOR officials estimate the surcharge could generate $57.6 million a year if all cities and towns adopt it.

Not everyone sees the need. Tiny suburbs such as West­on, Sudbury, and Lincoln have made no move to adopt it, while other towns such as Reading and Randolph opted not to go after the money.

Foxborough officials, with Gillette Stadium and Patriot Place accounting for a good portion of the estimated $305,000 the town could generate from the surcharge, declined to approve the local option, fearing it would drive diners to adjacent towns without the tax. Town Meeting members in Plymouth approved levying the surcharge in an attempt to pull in $427,000, but the issue was subsequently placed on the ballot where voters rejected it during the special election in January.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

The next deadline for cities and towns to adopt the tax is Aug. 31.


Source:  Massachusetts Department of Revenue and Massachusetts Municipal Association