Appomattox, VA- Appomattox town leaders say it's the least impactful way to raise taxes. But, some business owners call it discrimination. The town's new cigarette tax that passed at Monday night's town council meeting has some people a little upset.
This is not the first time a cigarette tax has been discussed in the town of Appomattox. Most residents and business owners don't have a problem with the tax itself, but where the tax will be enforced.
"I'm sure I'm going to lose cigarette customers," said Gehad Natour, Owner of Natour's Grocery and Deli.
Natour has been manager of the store in Appomattox for nearly 30 years. This is the first time he's had to raise cigarette prices for a local tax. But it's not the existence of the tax that bothers him, it's that it only applies to the Town of Appomattox, not the county.
"That means they discriminated against us, the merchants who are in the town limits" said Natour.
Even though the tax is just 27 cents per pack, Natour is afraid customers will seek their cigarettes outside town limits.
"All around the town there are businesses that are in the county and their cigarettes will not be taxed," he said.
Appomattox Mayor Paul Harvey says town council wanted to impact as few people as possible, and that's why they chose cigarettes to tax in first place.
"One of the alternatives that we really tried not to consider was to raise real estate and personal property, which affects everybody in the town," said Harvey.
In the end Natour says there's nothing he can do about it, except hope it won't deter customers for too long.
"Once they get used to the tax, I hope to gain them back. But, you never know," he said.
Mayor Harvey says the town will use the money collected from this tax to fund their priorities and initiatives. Those initiatives include improvements to local parks, work on Lee Grant Avenue and economic development projects.