One of the projects that has been in the works in recent months here in Westmoreland County was the creation of a regional cigarette tax in an attempt to draw in more revenue for both the county and its towns. The project hit a bit of a snag when the county administrator for neighboring King George County resigned to spend more time with his family, as he had been one of the primary pushers of the proposal. At last week’s Westmoreland Board of Supervisors meeting, County Administrator Norm Risavi gave an update on the status of things.
Just last week, a conference call had taken place between Risavi, Montross Town Manager Patricia Lewis and the administrators of Northumberland and Lancaster County. With King George County dropping out of the plan and looking to go about things their own way, Risavi stated that the remaining counties, along with Lewis, would go back to their respective governing bodies and determine if they wanted to move forward with the idea.
“I would say that it would be more cost-effective to do this as part of a region,” Risavi concluded in his opening remarks.
Supervisor Russ Culver raised a concern about implementing the tax, wondering if it might cause people to go buy cigarettes in another area that lacks such a tax.
“I’d like to know what the region is, since if you put a tax on them here, there’s nothing stopping them from going over to King George to buy them cheaper,” he explained.
Risavi worked to assuage the concerns, noting that, “The maximum amount you can put on each cigarette is two cents. Colonial Beach collects over $80,000 per year from it. Unless you’re buying a carton of cigarettes, are you going to drive that far to save however much it would be in taxes? It’s like the hotel-motel tax. When you check into a motel, did you ever ask about the tax before putting your feet up? Most people will just be looking to get some sleep; they won’t care what the tax is.”
An agreement has presently been drafted, bringing Westmoreland, Northumberland and Lancaster counties together with the town of Montross. The drafted agreement has yet to be codified, let alone reviewed by Stuart as of last week’s meeting. Furthermore, an ordinance will have to be passed as well, and the entire kit and caboodle likely passed and adopted by July 1 this year. No towns that already have a tax have asked to be a part of the board either. With the board voting in favor of the creation of a regional board, the process moves one step closer to completion.