BERRYVILLE — Two new taxes are generating more revenue for Clarke County than officials anticipated.

A cigarette tax of 20 cents per pack and a meals tax of 2 cents per dollar were levied by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors for the financial year that started July 1.

The county budgeted $100,000 in revenue from the cigarette tax for the entire year. Yet the tax already put $105,439 into the county's coffers as of Oct. 31, a report presented to the supervisors on Tuesday shows.

July's total of $50,496.80 was the highest monthly amount collected so far. Officials said that figure probably reflected not only taxes that smokers paid on cigarettes they bought, but also stickers that retailers were required to buy and affix to each pack sold.

A total of $17,892.20 was collected from the tax in August, followed by $19,950 in September and $17,100 in October.

If it continues to collect a minimum of October's amount monthly through June 30, the county will generate at least $242,239 from the tax for the entire fiscal year.

That would be roughly 140% more than expected.

Supervisors Chairman David Weiss commented that people will pay whatever they must to deal with their addictions.

However, Russell District Supervisor Doug Lawrence predicted collections "will go down in January and February" as people try to give up a bad habit as part of their New Year's resolutions.

The meals tax, meanwhile, is anticipated to bring in $150,000 for the budget year.

As of October's end, the county had garnered $46,544.99 from the tax. Monthly amounts collected since August, when the tax took effect, have been between $13,660.30 and $17,053.09.

Supervisors indicated monthly collections from the meals tax have been higher than expected.

A monthly collection rate of just $13,660.30 for 12 straight months would bring in $163,923.60. A monthly rate of $17,053.09 would earn $204,637.08 altogether. The average of those sums is $184,280.34.

Officials were unable to say for certain why the revenue figures have been above their projections.

"Our estimates were conservative, as always," said Weiss, who represents the Buckmarsh District.

"We were taking a blind guess," County Administrator Chris Boies said.

"I really didn't know what to expect," added Joint Administrative Services Director Brenda Bennett, who oversees finances for the county and its school division.

The meals tax is charged on foods and beverages prepared in restaurants and stores.

Both new taxes are part of efforts to diversify how the county obtains revenue. Officials want to reduce their reliance on the real estate tax, which virtually all property owners pay, and instead rely more on taxes that people don’t have to pay.

Basically, they consider dining out and smoking to be luxuries for which people don't have to spend money.

The taxes are being charged only in unincorporated areas of the county. Berryville has its own cigarette and meals taxes. Boyce doesn’t have a restaurant or a store selling either tobacco or consumable products.

Revenue from the taxes hasn't been earmarked for specific purposes.

— Contact Mickey Powell at mpowell@winchesterstar.com

(2) comments

TonyR

This is excellent news on several fronts. For starters the results tend to dispel the trope that any consumption tax "will be bad for business". The taxes are minuscule on a transaction basis - but wildly beneficial in total. Even better is the broadening of the revenue stream beyond property tax to pay for the excellent services we enjoy. Moving forward I would like to see a move away from tax exempt status on any property to further broaden the tax base.

libertyspirit

If these taxes bring in more than anticipated, are they going to be reduced to the anticipated amount next fiscal year? That would be the "equitable" thing to do.

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