A look at four months of municipal tax revenue shows Fredericksburg’s disposable plastic bag tax is bringing in more money than expected.
On Tuesday, budget analyst Donna Leahy told the Fredericksburg City Council that officials originally expected to receive about $24,000 this year from its 5-cent tax that took effect Jan. 1, but revenue from January to April have already exceeded $30,000. Leahy said she expects more revenue to flow in for the rest of the year.
“It’s possible we’ll get about $11,000 more, maybe for a total of $41,000,” Leahy said.
April brought in $15,358 in revenue from the city’s plastic bag tax, well above the $4,044 collected in March. February brought in the lowest amount, at $3,681, while January, the first month the new tax was in effect, brought in $7,300.
In September 2021, the city council passed an ordinance imposing a 5-cent tax on each single-use disposable plastic bag provided to consumers at grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies. Plastic bags used to wrap frozen food and dry-cleaned items, or bags used for garbage, pet or yard waste, were exempt from the tax.
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Leahy said the new tax that started January 1 was created to reduce the use of plastic bags. She also said state law requires that revenue collected through the tax be used for environmental cleanup, educational programs to reduce environmental waste, mitigate pollution and litter, or provide bags. reusable to participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
By a unanimous 7-0 vote on Tuesday, council members decided to obligate a portion of the revenue raised by approving $2,761 from the fund for part-time salaries and benefits of employees who participated in park cleanup operations. , with another $5,717 used to purchase reusable bags for SNAP and WIC program participants.
Leahy said the remaining funds not allocated this year will carry over to subsequent years. She also said other areas of environmental concern will also be addressed in future city spending.
“We intend to fund these programs that we have already mentioned in the resolution as well as other community efforts to reduce waste and pollution, including educational programs that will reduce waste and help clean up the environment.” , said Leahy.
When the nickel per bag tax came into effect on January 1, it was intended to be applied to certain merchants in the 22401 zip code only, but the idea of collecting 5 cents per plastic bag has also spread to some businesses outside the city limits. who have been invited by their respective offices to begin collecting the tax from Fredericksburg.
Amid the confusion, Stafford Tax Commissioner Scott Mayausky said chains like Dollar General and Giant in South Stafford County were charging the tax but had received notices to stop collecting the tax. In Spotsylvania County, shoppers said they were charged 5 cents for plastic bags at Marshall’s in Cosner’s Corner, the Southpoint Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and other stores.
On Tuesday, Councilwoman Kerry Devine cited those initial miscommunications that led to the collection of the tax in two of the city’s neighboring counties.
“Are we sure it’s all our money? Guess asked. “Because we’ve had this before where the state said oops, ‘whatever,’ and took it away.”
Leahy told city council that the revenue is coming to the city two months late, which will allow city staff enough time to take a close look at the revenue numbers before the funds are officially allocated for use in the city. town.
“We don’t spend the money until we get it,” Leahy said.
Until January 1, 2023, city retailers collecting the 5-cent tax will withhold 2 cents for each taxed plastic bag, but at the end of that period, the amount drops to 1 cent per bag. Devine said she hopes the tax will come down even more one day.
“I hope we stop collecting it because I hope people get the message and remember to use their reusable bags,” Devine said.
Councilman Jason Graham said the Downtown Hurkamp Park Farmer’s Market is offering free reusable bags at no cost.
“So I encourage anyone who needs a reusable bag, or a second or third reusable bag, to go check it out because they’re there and they’re available and they’re free,” Graham said.
James Scott Baron: