Regional tobacco tax considered

Published 10:02 am Thursday, July 15, 2021

Counties in Southside Virginia, including Prince Edward, Buckingham and Cumberland, appear to be considering the formation of a regional tobacco tax board to bring in additional revenue in the form of a cigarette tax.

During the Monday, July 12, Buckingham County Board of Supervisors meeting, District 4 Supervisor and Board Vice Chair Thomas Jordan Miles III discussed with supervisors a presentation given at the latest Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC) meeting.

According to the minutes of the Wednesday, June 16, CRC meeting, a presentation was given by attorney Bill Hefty of the Hefty, Wiley and Gore law firm regarding the potential formation of a regional tobacco tax board.

The minutes explain that due to a recent change in state law, beginning July 1, counties are now able to assess a tax on cigarettes of up to 40 cents per pack. Towns which already have a tobacco tax, such as Farmville, can choose to “block” this additional tax or stack it on top of their own.

Per the packet, it seems the discussion of the tax board was prompted after recent meetings held by other nearby counties interested in forming their own regional board. Those discussions, initiated originally by Dinwiddie County, involved several localities in Southside Virginia including CRC members Amelia and Nottoway. Other CRC member counties include Buckingham, Cumberland, Prince Edward, Charlotte and Lunenburg.

If CRC’s member counties elect to form a tobacco tax board, the board would be staffed by the localities. Staff would possess the authority to implement the tax program and enforce assessment and collection of the cigarette tax.

While counties can elect to tax cigarettes on their own without a regional board, the board would be beneficial in that the cost of the staffing to enforce the tax would be divided amongst member localities. 

According to the packet, council members and county administrators present at the CRC meeting expressed interest in a regional tobacco tax board but noted they would each need to approach the local board of supervisors in order to gauge the county’s interest.

On Monday night, Miles told fellow board members Hefty believed the county could make an estimated $125,000 per year with the tax before administrative costs associated with board staffing.

Supervisors elected to refer the matter to the board’s finance committee.