The fee for a city-issued tobacco sales license will cost businesses an additional $75 after the City Council on Monday approved the increase in a compromise.
The new cost for a tobacco sales license will be $100. The original proposal was to increase the fee to $200, but Councilmen Richard Santamaria and Paul Archetto took issue with the size of the increase. Though Cranston's current fee of $25 might be low as compared to other municipalities, it's still money out of many small business owners' pockets, they argued.
"For CVS, it's a drop in the bucket, but for mom and pops, it's a tax increase," Santamaria said.
The ordinance's sponsor Steve Stycos said though businesses might not like paying higher fees, "they have the option of raising the price of cigarettes to cover it or not sell them."
The intent of the ordinance isn't to discourage smoking but to fill a revenue hole in the budget of $16,000, Stycos said. That amount was coded into the budget the council approved last month in the last-minute flurry of budget adjustments to balance the budget.
Councilman James E. Donahue said he'd normally equate any license fee increase with a tax increase, but in this case, the $25 fee did seem low. That was his thinking when he approved the ordinance on the Finance Committee, sending it to the full council for Monday's vote.
Councilman Emilio Navarro agreed that $25 was "ridiculously" low and he'd support $100 or even $200.
Archetto put a motion on the floor to lower the increase and set the fee at $100. That would mean the revenue estimate would be slashed in half to $8,000 and "I'm sure we could find $8,000 in the budget and Finance [Committee] Chairman [Robert] Pelletier could work that material," he said.
Stycos questioned whether a $200 yearly fee really was all that "enormous" for even small business owners to absorb in the cigarette-selling business.
Donahue urged his colleagues to not "overthink" the issue. If Providence has a $100 fee, Cranston can use that as a guide.
The amended motion passed unanimously.