U.S. Water News Online
GORDONSVILLE, Va. -- Hard hit by the drought, officials are
considering a local cigarette tax to raise money to upgrade the
town's water system.
Repeated cuts in state support and the loss of tax revenue from
several businesses that have closed or scaled back operations have
forced the town to look for new sources of revenue.
Imposing a 10-cent tax on each pack of cigarettes sold in the
Orange County town could bring in $18,000 to $35,000 a year, town
``The budget doesn't even allow us to do any upgrades on our water
system,'' Mayor Ernest Duncan noted.
Duncan said the council has been considering the ``sin tax'' for
some time and has not heard much negative feedback. Town
administrator J. Hubert Allen Jr. said the new revenue could go
toward sidewalk improvements as well as water storage facilities and
new water lines.
Councilman Robert Coiner said he will listen to the public before
deciding whether to vote for the tax. He said he would like
suggestions on ways to save money to stave off further taxation. ``It
would well serve (residents) to articulate what services they wish to
see eliminated,'' he said.
Last summer's drought hit Orange County hard, especially the towns
of Gordonsville and Orange, where there is little capacity for water
storage. The towns rely almost solely on the Rapidan River for water,
and the river's level dropped to mere inches at one point in the
Businesses in the two towns faced water shut-offs for a few days
during August, and water-based customers such as car washes and coin
laundries endured major water cut-backs.
Since then, both Orange and Gordonsville have studied
water-storage techniques to prevent future emergencies.
Orange officials have not considered the tax, but may increase
water rates to offset the cost of constructing a water storage basin,
said Town Manager Sabrina Martyn. The increase will not go toward
paying off drought-related expenditures from last summer, she said.
Gordonsville has no cigarette tax, so smokers pay only the
Virginia tax of 2.5 cents per pack, the lowest state levy in the
country. In mid-December, Alexandria joined Chesapeake in having the
highest local cigarette tax in the state at 50 cents a pack.
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