County may tax cigarettes

By Heather Michon

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt a resolution of interest in joining a potential regional cigarette tax board during their regular meeting on Wednesday (May 5).

The General Assembly passed legislation in 2020 allowing counties to levy a tax on cigarettes at a maximum of 40 cents per pack. This would be added to a 60 cent tax per pack already levied by the state.

Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) has reached out to the counties to gauge interest in forming a regional body to administer the tax on behalf of localities. TJPDC has already held some work sessions on how the tax would be implemented in our area.

County Administrator Eric Dahl said a conservative preliminary estimate indicates Fluvanna County could see $150,000 to $200,000 from a cigarette tax.

The resolution “doesn’t commit the board to say ‘yes, we want to do a regional cigarette tax,’” said Dahl, “but it sets the groundwork a little more formally for us to move forward in that direction.”


Following a presentation by Major David Wells of the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office on the training of deputies and best practices in policing, conversation turned back to events from the previous meeting.

During that meeting, a debate over whether to alter the wording of a June 2020 resolution condemning the killing of George Floyd led to a somewhat sharp exchanges between Supervisor Mozell Booker (Fork Union), Supervisor Don Weaver (Cunningham), and County Attorney Fred Payne.

In light of the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, Booker urged the Board to consider changing the word “death” in the original resolution to “murder.” County Attorney Fred Payne gave his opinion that the verdict was not yet final and that public officials shouldn’t be commenting on legal cases still in process.

Later in the discussion, Weaver argued against fanning the flames, asking “why can’t we just sit back and relax?” When Booker said they couldn’t sit back and relax, he loudly responded: “well, you can’t, but I can.”

During public comments at this Wednesday’s meeting, several residents took Weaver and Payne to task for what they felt were the mens’ disrespectful behavior towards Booker —  the board’s only African-American member —  and towards the issue of racial equity as whole.

Booker said she had not recalled that the June 2020 resolution was to condemn the killing not just of George Floyd, but of Rayshard Brooks of Atlanta.

Brooks, 27, was killed by police after he was found sleeping in the drive-thru of a Wendy’s on the night of June 12, 2020, just days after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis.

Both officers involved the shooting were charged with murder and other counts, but almost a year later, their cases remain tied up in legal wrangling, and it is unclear when, or if, they will ever go to trial.

In light of that, Booker said she believed they should leave the resolution as it is for the time being, concluding, “I’d just like to bring some closure to it, but to move forward and see what other kinds of things that we need to be doing to bring our community together more.”

Both she and Supervisor Tony O’Brien (Rivanna) supported more anti-bias training in the community, with O’Brien adding that he thought the board might want to fund training for county staff, and even the supervisors themselves.

O’Brien and Chair Mike Sheridan (Columbia) both noted that Weaver and Booker have served together on the board for many years, and have a collegial professional relationship.

“Mr. Weaver and I had a nice conversation,” Booker said, “and we found out different things about each other. I taught him some things, and he taught me some things. So sometimes things happen that will bring us together for a purpose.”

Weaver made no comments during the half-hour discussion.




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