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Cigarette tax enacted in South Hill / May 31, 2017

South Hill Town Council, looking to increase revenue for the upcoming budget, approved a 15 cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes on Tuesday night and also set in motion a personal property tax hike of 45 cents.

The vote by Council members last night did not go by without opposition.

Both Lillie Feggins-Boone and Leroy Sasser voted against the cigarette tax ordinance which passed on a vote of 6-2.

Millie Bracey, who made the motion in favor of the first-of-its kind levy in Southside Virginia, explained after the meeting that Council’s approval of the tax ordinance covered only the cigarette tax, because that’s a new tax. Council will be voting on whether to also increase the personal property tax rate at a later meeting. Since that’s not a new tax, merely a tax increase, Council was not required to pass a separate ordinance for the property tax.

The tax will go into effect July 1, assuming Council passes its FY2018 budget at its monthly meeting June 12.

Town Manager Kim Callis said the funds raised by these taxes will support a general fund budget of nearly $14.3 million, and in particular a computer dispatch and records management system for the police and enhanced law enforcement benefits. Callis said these benefits are necessary for the town to attract and retain qualified police officers.

Callis said the town has applied for $300,000 in grants to help pay for these police department upgrade.

Several members of the public spoke against the cigarette tax, including convenience store owners Jeffrey Edmunds and Hermie Sadler who said they would lose business, tobacco growers Jay Jennings and Justin Smith and Tyler Howerton, who said the taxes were a burden on people who are already struggling.

Bain Cameron was one of the few people to speak in favor of the tax, calling it a voluntary tax since no one needs to smoke and Emmett Williams, the owner of several local businesses said he agreed with the imposition of a cigarette tax and commended Callis and the Council for their budget decisions.

Responding to concerns raised at earlier meetings, when the cigarette tax was first discussed, Callis said none of these additional revenues were being used in the construction of the new public works facility on Danville Street that is being built on the site of the former Exchange Warehouse or to purchase a new ladder truck for the fire department. The monies for the truck will come from three sources, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, which is donating $75,000, proceeds from the sale of the existing ladder truck and existing fund balances.

Callis also explained that the General Assembly in Richmond continues to talk about eliminating towns’ ability to impose a business and professional license tax on local merchants. If that happens, South Hill will lose approximately $750,000 in annual revenue. He and his staff are looking to the future to ensure a steady revenue stream through other sources.

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Millie Bracey, who made the motion in favor of the first-of-its kind levy in Southside Virginia

100% False

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