The City of Bethel reports its newly implemented tobacco tax raised over $25,000 in March. And officials estimate that number could go up in coming months.
The tax, which was implemented on March 1st, raised the price of cigarettes by $2.00 per pack and the price of other tobacco products by 45% of the wholesale price.
In the first month the tax netted a total of $25,013.49.
City Finance Director Bobby Sutton says the city could bring in more than that per month, for a yearly total somewhere between $300-$400,000.
Many in the community have praised the tax. Officials hope the increased expense will encourage people to quit smoking.
But not everyone is in favor of the tax.
“I was and am not supportive of the city tax,” said Bea Kristovich. She wants to know what the city will do with the money.
City Manager Lee Foley said it’s not clear yet what the money will be used for. That’s for the Bethel City Council to decide.
“Whatever they choose to do with the money, it will be something that will benefit the majority of our community members,” Foley said.
There are many possibilities.
“We could use it for social causes, we could use it for the homeless coalition that the people are trying to put together here and do something for the homeless people. We could do something for an animal control shelter. We could look at doing some design work that needs to be done on our lagoon, so we can move forward with that. There are a lot of different projects that could benefit the majority of the community. We just have to pick and choose something that’s going to be the best,” Foley said.
Until the council decides what to do with the funds, all the money raised goes into the city’s general fund.