CHRISTIANSBURG — The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors should not delay a vote on a cigarette tax any longer.
The board, by verbal consensus last week, directed its staff to begin drafting an ordinance calling for the establishment of the tax, a revenue option that the General Assembly eventually allowed all counties to collect after years of advocacy.
Prior to the passage of state legislation in 2020, only cities and towns — as well as just two counties in the state — had the power to impose a local cigarette tax. Legislation approved two years ago allows counties to impose a tax of up to a maximum rate of 40 cents per pack.
Most Montgomery supervisors expressed support for establishing the tax during a discussion last week.
Supervisor Steve Fijalkowski, whose district significantly covers part of the county outside of Blacksburg and Christiansburg, expressed support for a tax on cigarettes, but said he would like to see the actual rate be the same as the one imposed by the two towns located in the county. He said he would also like the proceeds to go to parks and recreation.
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“I think it’s appropriate,” he said. “This [item being taxed] is not good, but where the money goes is very good.
Christiansburg and Blacksburg, respectively, collect cigarette taxes of 40 cents and 30 cents per pack — with the latter city specifying that its rate is per pack of 20 cigarettes.
Other supervisors such as Sara Bohn and Mary Biggs, who represent each of the districts that cover parts of Blacksburg, echoed Fijalkwoski’s call to keep the rate comparable to those imposed by cities.
While Bohn described the projected revenue as a drop in the ocean in terms of funds for parks and recreation, “every little bit will help,” she said.
However, not all supervisors agree with the measure.
Supervisor Todd King, who represents another district that significantly covers part of the county outside of the two cities, said the county was not desperate for the funding that would come from the tax. He also expressed concerns about the tax negatively affecting businesses located in the county.
“Number one, I think it’s wrong. We don’t need the money,” said King, who expressed additional concerns about recent increases in the overall cost of goods. “Why should this council impose a burden on certain ratepayers? Go out and talk to those troubleshooters. If that happens, you’re taking business away from convenience stores in the county. »
King continued, “Right now people are going to them [county stores] to get out of the Blacksburg tax and the Christiansburg tax.
King said he doesn’t believe the county should seek a tax simply because it has the power to do so.
Board Chair Sherri Blevins said, “I’m trying to cut taxes. I agree, it would take business away from convenience stores that are not within the city limits.
When the board approved its budget earlier this year, Blevins was the only supervisor to make the unusual call to cut tax rates – a push that ultimately failed, but an issue the elected official has says she would like to see her again in the future.
Blevins said she had hoped to try to provide relief to ratepayers and cited current economic challenges such as significant inflation, as well as the upcoming countywide reassessment of property values.