City votes against implementing cellular phone tax

A tax on cellular phone usage is not an option for Manassas as it searches for money to pay for city services, the City Council decided Monday night.

The council voted 5-1 to avoid taxing city residents up to $3 per month for use of cell phones.

Vice Mayor Harry J. Parrish II echoed the worries of many of his fellow council members when he mentioned that city residents are already facing higher real estate taxes on their homes. On average, the assessed value of a Manassas home is expected to increase by 16 percent for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. It went up 19 percent for the present year.

“I’m not ready to vote for a tax we’ve never had before, as citizens pay more taxes on their homes,” he said.

Prince William County and Manassas Park both have cell phone taxes. Manassas Park instituted its tax last year.

City Manager Lawrence Hughes was proposing the cell phone tax as a way to help the city make up for more than $3 million in machinery and tool tax revenue lost when Toshiba Corp. sold its Dominion Semiconductor plant to Micron Technology Inc.

The cell phone tax was predicted to produce an extra $336,000 in the coming year. Hughes has also been proposing a hike in the local cigarette tax, as well as keeping the real estate tax rate at $1.20 per $100.

Councilman J. Steven Randolph supported the cell phone tax because he saw it allowing the city to cut the real estate tax rate.

“People choose to have a cell phone,” he said. “People don’t choose to have a home.”

Parrish thought a cut in the real estate tax rate might still be possible, even without a cell phone tax.

“It is a tough tax year,” he said. “But when you have tough tax years, sometimes you have to make difficult decisions.”

Staff writer Chris Newmarker can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 119.

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