Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Stephens City Town Council approves tax on cigarettes

STEPHENS CITY — A pack of smokes will cost 25 cents more in town when a new tax adopted Tuesday takes effect.

The Town Council voted 6-1 at its regular meeting to approved an ordinance creating a 25-cent excise tax on a pack of 20 cigarettes. Mayor Ray Ewing, Vice Mayor Joy Shull and councilmen Ronald Bowers, John Hollis, Lindel Fravel Jr. and Micheal Grim voted to approve the ordinance on the final reading. Councilman John Harter gave the dissenting vote.

"There were enough people in this town that didn't like the idea, and somebody had to vote against it," Harter said, explaining his vote.

Bowers disagreed.

"I think it's a fair tax because you're putting it on an elected product," Bowers said.

Currently, four businesses within town limits sell cigarettes and would have to charge the tax. Sellers must display a cigarette stamp provided by the town. Taxes will be collected by the town treasurer. The tax per individual cigarette will be 1.25 cents, but the total revenue should be around $25,000, according to Town Manager Mike Kehoe.

In other business, the council:

* Adopted a resolution to address "Virginia's transportation funding crisis," by which the town supports the efforts of the governor and the General Assembly "to act swiftly and decisively to approve legislation that will address the transportation funding crisis at the statewide, regional and local levels."

The resolution also states that such legislation should include new tax and fee revenue, including tolls on new highways, to ensure safe roads, ease congestion, promote economic development and provide consumer choices.

* Held a public hearing on the proposed 2008-2009 budget. No one spoke during the hearing. The total budget is proposed at $1.45 million, compared to $1.66 million for the current fiscal year. The council scheduled a June 12 special meeting at which they plan to vote on the budget.

Also, the council approved a motion extending the deadline to pay real estate and personal property taxes to June 30. Bills were to be due Thursday.

* Voted unanimously to award a contract to American Disposal Inc. for refuse collection. The contract is for one year at $101,192. Evergreen Waste Inc. currently provides the service for nearly $90,000 but submitted a bid of $125,881 for the next year, the second-highest of three bids.

* Voted unanimously to adopt a resolution requesting that the Virginia Department of Transportation reduce the speed limit on U.S. 11 (Valley Pike), 0.95 miles south of the previous town limits, from 55 mph to 45 mph.