Officials endorse plan for revenue return

Published 12:42 pm Thursday, September 1, 2016

A legislative initiative to return a portion of Virginia lottery revenue to counties and towns is gaining support in the Heart of Virginia.

Greg Eanes

Greg Eanes

So far, supervisors in Buckingham and Prince Edward counties and the Farmville Town Council have endorsed the proposal.

If approved by the Virginia General Assembly, it would provide all cities, towns and counties a 5-percent return on lottery sales in their localities.

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Under the proposal from Nottoway County — including the towns of Crewe, Blackstone and Burkeville — of the 5 percent, cities and counties would retain 100 percent of the return generated in their borders. Towns would retain 60 perecent with 40 percent going to their county.

“The 5 percent comes from the prize pool only. Under the plan, the education allotment is not touched,” said Crewe Mayor Greg Eanes, who is spearheading the proposal.

According to Eanes, town officials briefed the Virginia Association for Counties and the Virginia Municipal League, seeking to make the proposal part of their 2017 legislative agendas.

“These organizations are seeking to ascertain the financial impacts of the returns on their localities and soliciting feedback from their members which are made up of local governments,” Eanes said.

David Whitus

David Whitus

In fiscal year 2015, Buckingham saw $5.1 million in lottery sales, according to the Virginia Lottery, while Prince Edward saw $9.4 million; and Cumberland County, $2.5 million. If 5 percent of sales were returned to counties, Buckingham County would have seen $257,383; Prince Edward, $468,841; and Cumberland $122,736 — a total of $848,960.

Eanes said the estimated returns will differ based on local sales. 

“The feedback from localities has been positive as all seek new revenue streams to protect their taxpayers from the rising costs of government,” he said.

Farmville Mayor David Whitus said the money could help local cash-flow needs.

“Towns have limited sources of revenue and, in many towns, a shrinking tax base while demands for services continue to rise,” Whitus said.

“Farmville would welcome the additional revenue stream as it would allow us to do some additional improvements. Being a regional hub, we have more retail activity that generates more revenue for us that many small towns.”

Buckingham County Administrator Rebecca S. Carter said supervisors voted to support the initiative “provided it does not take any of the money from the school lottery money.”

Virginia Lottery spokesman John Hagerty said while the Lottery doesn’t take positions on legislative issues, it takes on the responsibility of pointing out the risks of such proposals.

“The reason Virginia has a lottery is to generate funds for K-12 public education,” Hagerty said.

“If consumers were to see a 5-percent drop in prizes, we believe many would choose not to play, or take their dollars to stores elsewhere, such as North Carolina. Based on the experience of other states, we estimate a 15-percent drop in sales, which would mean 15-percent less in lottery profits for Virginia’s schools.”

Eanes, however, said, “This proposal has positive implications for citizens and communities across the state.”