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Sales tax increase to be voted on

Hundreds of new laws go into effect on July 1, but one could bring more revenue into the county.

Legislation was approved by both the House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam that allows additional local sales tax in certain localities to be used for construction or renovation of schools.

Charlotte County is one of those localities.

The Charlotte County Board of Supervisors (BOS) unanimously voted during its Jan. 8 meeting to adopt a resolution in support of a 1% sales tax increase that would help fund school projects. The BOS requested that Del. James Edmunds introduce legislation giving the county the authority to place a referendum on the November ballot.

In July, the BOS will vote to request the referendum be placed on the November ballot.

If citizens vote yes on the referendum, the BOS would then adopt a resolution to add the 1% sales tax beginning July 2021.

“The taxpayers will have the final say,” County Administrator Dan Witt said.

Witt said the 1% tax to help fund school projects would go away once the debt service is paid off or once the projects are completed.

According to Witt, the tax would be a user tax and does not negatively impact low and middle-income persons and has the potential to lessen the tax burden by bringing in an estimated $700,000 in additional revenue to the county.

The sales tax, if approved, would be placed on items such as beer, wine, cigarettes, and prepared foods.

“Medicine and food off the shelf would not be taxed,” Witt said.

During its June 9 meeting, BOS members agreed to set up a Sales Tax Committee that would work to inform citizens of the need for such a tax.

Wylliesburg/Red Oak Supervisor Kay Pierantoni who will serve on the newly created committee said if the referendum is successfully passed, the revenue generated from the 1% sales tax increase will go into a separate fund which can only be used for school renovations or new school construction.

“Unlike other taxes, such as Consumer Utility Tax, none of the revenue will go to the towns,” Pierantoni said. “It will be used 100% for desperately needed repairs and updates to school buildings.”

Several other laws going into effect on July 1 include:

Cigarette and Tobacco Products Tax Increase: Beginning July 1, the tax rate doubles for cigarettes and other tobacco products currently subject to the tax. The tax on a pack of cigarettes increases from 30 cents to 60 cents per pack.

Marijuana possession: Effective July 1, a $25 civil penalty for simple marijuana possession will apply. Under current state law, a first-time offender faces up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for possession of less than a half-ounce of marijuana.

Anti-discrimination: Also, on July 1, Virginia becomes the first southern state to include language in its anti-discrimination housing and employment laws that protects citizens of the LGBTQ community.