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Warren County, Front Royal officials eye cigarette tax

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

Warren County and Front Royal could join most localities in the region and start charging a tax on cigarettes.

But such a levy faces a number of hurdles -- including a public hearing -- before either jurisdiction could implement a tax.

Front Royal officials warned that both jurisdictions would need to set up such a tax simultaneously and for the same rate or risk driving cigarette buyers into either of the localities that did not charge the levy.

Front Royal Town Council on Monday discussed the possibility of adding a tax on cigarettes as another way to raise revenue beyond the usual property taxes. The issue came up as a discussion item at the town-county liaison meeting in May. At that session the representatives decided to take the matter back to their respective elected bodies for further discussion, according to Town Manager Steven Burke. The matter then could come back at the next liaison committee meeting, Burke said.

"The understanding was that if the town or the county independently adopted a tobacco tax it would simply drive sales out of that jurisdiction and into the other," Burke said. "So if there was any consideration [of the tax] it would have to be a joint consideration.

"Right now we're in the exploratory state, just going through and simply getting consensus by both the town and the county to see if it's worth staff investing further time into what types of tobacco taxes could be adopted by both jurisdictions," Burke added.

Staff provided a list of all towns in Virginia which had adopted a tobacco taxes and identified how much in revenue each collected in fiscal 2011. The discussion focused more on the potential revenue from a tax, Burke said. As Burke recalled the representatives recognized several localities in the region who had already adopted a tax were looking at raising their levies.

Information provided by staff showed that Woodstock collected $89,186 and Strasburg $124,705 in cigarette tax revenue in fiscal 2011.

New Market Town Council voted in May to raise the jurisdiction's cigarette tax from 10 cents to 15 cents and the new rate takes effect July 1. Woodstock Town Council met Tuesday and voted to adopt an ordinance setting the fiscal 2013 budget. The action also raises the town's cigarette tax rate from 10 cents to 25 cents -- largest increase put into effect in any of the region's localities.

Most localities in the area that impose a cigarette tax set the rate at 25 cents per pack. Mt. Jackson charges the highest levy at 35 cents.

Whether the tax rates in other localities play a role in what Front Royal and Warren County set as their levy remains uncertain.

Douglas Stanley, county administrator for Warren County, said Tuesday he received correspondence from Burke indicating council wants to talk with the Board of Supervisors about the tax possibility.

"For the most part the town has asked us whether we're interested in or not," Stanley said. "The Board of Supervisors has not formally discussed the matter to say yes or no so at this time [it's] a little premature.

"It would be months away if we were to do something like that," Stanley said. "You have stamps, implementation issues, those types of things you have to look into as well."

The issue likely will come up at the next Town-County liaison committee meeting in July, Stanley said.

Some cigarette tax rates in the region
Mt. Jackson - 35 cents
New Market - 10 cents (15 cents starting July 1)
Strasburg - 25 cents
Stephens City - 25 cents
Winchester - 25 cents
Woodstock - 10 cents (25 cents starting July 1)


The tax is a great move and since it's inevitable let's set the rate as high as possible. I hope the Town-County opt for a tax in the .35-.50 range.

Divide some of the income to low-income health services, the parks dept. and the PTOs.

Don't let the discussion be about "if" there is a tax, frame the conversation about why we need the revenue and resources healthcare, recreation, education.

Taxation without representation..... I read of a time when that wouldn't fly here in America, of course this is AmeriKa now isn't it?

NVD, are you planning to report on the Council's reaction to the berating from Doug Stanley regarding the Walter Duncan water study at the last Council meeting. The water issue should rank as important in our community as the cigarette tax I hear that the Council addressed this issue during Monday's work session and actually came up with some progressive ideas in standing up for the Town. Council Conkey led the charge with support from Councilman Parker. Thank you Councilman Conkey. The citizens of our Town are going to miss your insights and wisdom

I will not vote for a tax on cigarettes with the one exception if it will prevent the county from imposing one on the town citizens. And at that I will support only the least amount allowed (can you have a fractional tax?). I believe we should all assume the responsibility of funding our governemnt as equiably as possible and not shift the burdon to one segment of society. I do not believe we should penalize people who choose to consume a legal product, especially to fund general revenues. More to say as the debate progresses.

Your words mirror the words of a Current Councilman on the Council when this topic was brought up a couple of years ago. The big concern I have is the fact that you would support the highest cigarette tax increase possible. This goes against the principles and ideas of the Councilman you are mirroring as far as raising taxes goes. He is one of the few councilmen who has made it clear that he doesn't raise taxes. Creating new ones, well that appears to be a different story.

I would also guess that the funds raised by this new tax levied at a select segment of the population would go directly in the Town and County Coffers to help fund the general fund and not go to low income health clinics.

Mr. Hrbek it is good to see your common sense approach to the issues returning to the council. You have been missed.

I'm personally tired of being the one who constantly gets a tax hike and nothing for it.

I appreciate the post Bret. but as you know the smoker is their juden in America anymore.

How about a fat tax on fast food, a cut in pay for those who work for the gov't, a break on building new stuff for the city, not letting the police take cars home and paying for their gas to drive their kids around to school , etc etc?


Thank you for some common sense.
If we are going to enact a punishment on any one group of people, then I want a fat tax on sugared soda since I don't drink it!
Another drunk tax on alcohol, what do I care? I don't drink!

Lets go far out there and tax yellow clothing, I never wear yellow, so since it wont effect me I really don't care.

NO ONE wants more taxes, but if there has to be more/new then it needs to be across the board, not just effect one select group of people that aren't doing anything illegal.

"Taxation without representation"

Did you fail to understand the part where it mentioned the public hearing? Or the part where the entire proposal is being handled by your local elected officials? Or the the part where numerous other nearby towns do not have a tax, and you can go stock up on carcinogens there? OR the part where your uninformed viewpoint was posted on a public website?

This is nothing new. Taxes are already in play that burden the various segments of society. Everyone is unfairly burdened at some level. Let me remind everyone in a quick run down:

Gas tax--This really hits the commuters.
Business tax--Open a business in FR and you will pay this.
Cigarette tax--already in play at the state level
Car tax--multiple taxes at the state and local level
Meals tax--dine out and you wil be hit with this
Lodging tax--you will pay the man if you rent a room
Real estate tax--better not own a home or you will pay this
Personal Prop. Tax--get rid of the trailers and boats
Hunting license--nothing more than a tax

I don't drive, operate a business, smoke, dine out, own any property, hunt, and I rent a 3 bedroom apartment, benefit from police and fire protection, have 3 kids in school so I shouldn't pay any taxes.....because all of this other stuff is free.

We see they do what they want regardless. You can see it from the post from small town.

Look at the bans , some even pushing for outside bans now. they'll pass it regardless of this phony public hearing, etc

representation my eye

Why do they think they should be able to tax us anymore. We are taxed to death now. If you sell your vehicle one day after Jan 1 you still have to pay the $25.00 dollars for the county sticker for the year for that vehicle and then the new owner has to purchase a sticker for the year for the same cost. Where is all this money going too. Look at how much taxes they are getting from this alone and they want more taxes. I would think in this economy they would understand that it is hard enough to pay for groceries, gas, electric, housepayments, etc as they have all went up in the last several years. Seem like all these policitians want is to raise taxes. The rich keep getting richer and the poor get poorer as we pay the most in taxes. The rich pay less taxes and maybe instead of taxing the products we buy the rich could pay more in taxes. Seems fair to me. Why should the person out here working the hardest have to pay the most in taxes. Just my concerns. I hope they do not pass any more taxes on anything.

so the rich can have a better tax rate for another caddie in the driveway that they can throw kake to the peasents who adore them.

How dare they not accept my scrip!!!

we the people are tapped out on giving, yet no one will tax those still raking it in during the crash. didn't Marie lose her head this same way?

Upon reviewing the list of taxes now in place, I noticed that one significant thing is not taxed or at least not mentioned...alcohol!! Why is there never a mention of imposing higher taxes on alcohol? Talk about more revenue!!

I must agree with Tstar on this. If there is no tax on alcohol, why would this not be a good tax source as well as cigarettes if there is no reason prohibiting it? We are NOT smokers but still feel it is not really fair.

Wanda, when I ran, I truly wanted to cut taxes on cars and food. Pizza, a luxury? I don't think so. If we raise taxes on cigarettes, there should be an equivalent lowering of taxes on food. Oh, I forgot, we have to finance the million-dollar bank building, the multi-million police state, er, public safety building, and the computer programs to get grants for more federal and ngo controls.

Will there be any hope of electing ordinary citizens with decency and common sense in Obomneyland?

I'm with you, Wanda, but I don't know if it is worth it to run again in this toxic atmosphere.

We hope in the Lord's providence to get us out of this mess.

The reason the town doesn't tax alcohol is simply because the State won't let us. The Town doesn't tax food and the town doesn't tax cars. We have a Meals Tax and we have a sticker for your car, but that's a far cry from taxing food and cars.

The problem with running a campaign on a platform that uses broad inaccurate generalities is that most people understand the difference between a meals tax and a tax on food. Most people also understand that a budget has to balance revenues with expenses. Cutting expenses means cutting services since services are the only thing the town provides and the services are provided by our employees.

So ... Who will you fire in order to reduce taxes? What street doesn't get fixed? What water main break doesn't get fixed? How long is it OK to wait for the police to come help you when someone is at your door with a gun? Two days? Three days?? A week?

It's easy to make sweeping statements in a campaign, but when/if you are elected, you need to make the tough decisions and figure out how to balance what you need with what you want and determine how you are going to pay for it.

I know that you did take the time to research and tried to understand how local government works so i am surprised that you would make a statement like you did on reducing the tax on food and cars. The candidates that decide to run in the future must be decent people but it's critical they must also need to understand how local governments works to be able bring new thinking into the mainstream . Mr Conkey is right on target with his response and he will be missed when he leaves office this month. When people are elected you call decent people without doing any research , this can create a disaster that all will have to deal with in the future. Please stop with the emotional statements without the facts. It does not help and only divides the community

Hahaha! I bet you every one of the Town/County Board Members votes for this tax as fast as they can! Where else are they going to find any revenue? They've already made running a business in this community an uphill climb. Just drive down Main St., you'll see legions of out of work smokers, hanging out in front of the empty storefronts.

I wouldn't call it 'common sense' to consider a cigarette tax a penalty for anyone. Is the tax on Gas or Booze a penalty?

Have you seen the healthcare stats for our County? Do you have any idea how many uninsured people we have in Front Royal?

Again I challenge you to prove to me that the additional revenue raised by this proposed tax increase would go to free health care clinics. I cannot see that happening. If this proposed tax increase goes through I predict that the raised revenue will go promptly into the General Fund.

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