Albemarle Supervisors learn about efforts to implement new cigarette tax for area counties

Last Thursday, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission got an update on the possibility of a regional cigarette tax. The TJPDC is leading efforts to create a body that would collect and distribute the revenues to participating localities. 

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors had received an update at their budget work session on March 22. Lori Allshouse is the director of budget and performance management for Albemarle County. 

“During the 2020 General Assembly, they authorized the county to impose a cigarette tax of up to 40 cents per pack for counties,” Allshouse said. “Up until this time, only Virginia cities, Virginia towns, and Arlington and Fairfax counties have been able to impose a cigarette tax,” Allshouse said. 

If Albemarle proceeds with going through the various steps to levy the tax, any revenues would go to the general fund. Those steps include adoption of an ordinance following a public hearing. The tax has also been reviewed by the county’s Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI)

“As part of that process we began our consideration of this proposed tax by seeking first to understand who could be most affected by this tax and how could those impacts be experienced and mitigated,” Allshouse said. 

The Board will hold a work session on the equity impact assessment in August. Research on this topic found the cigarette tax would impact the poor and black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Jason Inofuentes is a project and policy associate in OEI who cited a University of Pittsburgh study on the effects of taxation and smoking rates.

“Where you see the highest decrease in smoking is in the highest incomes,” Inofuentes said. “There is overall some amount of decrease. There isn’t however any noticeable decrease in low-income communities.” 

Credit: Albemarle County

If implemented, the goal is to have all localities in the area impose the tax so no one locality has a competitive advantage. David Blount is the legislative liaison for the TJPDC and he addressed the Board of Commissioner on Thursday. 

“I think from here we see that following this meeting within the next week or so that we would send out some materials to every jurisdiction in our region, which would be the city and the five counties as well as the four towns in our region, but also casting the net a little bit wider to some of the counties that adjoin our member counties,” Blount said. 

Blount is asking localities to consider resolutions to express interest in participating and to authorize their staff to participate in the discussion.

“Certainly not asking anybody at this point to commit to anything, commit to participating, or commit to anything beyond just an interest,” Blount said. “I think by the time we get to summer time with June and July rolling around, we really want to be looking at what does this regional board look like? What are its functions? What is the make-up of the board? What is the legal makeup? Those types of things.” 

Greene County Supervisor Dale Herring representatives said his locality was interested. 

“I think what the TJPDC is doing is the direction we need to go on,” Herring said. 

Fluvanna’s representatives also said they were interested. Albemarle Supervisor Donna Price told the TJPDC that her county wants to pursue the regional approach. 

“We don’t anticipate that the revenue that is generated is going to be significant enough to result in a reduction of our property tax,” Price said. 

No referendum would be required if localities agree. More information as it becomes available. 

Credit: Albemarle County

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the April 5, 2021 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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