published Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Marion County wheel tax likely to face challenge

By Ryan Lewis

BY THE NUMBERS


$50: Wheel tax on cars

$25: Wheel tax on motorcycles

Source: Marion County Commission

Poll
Should Marion County have a wheel tax?

JASPER, Tenn. -- Marion County commissioners approved a wheel tax last week in hopes of easing the strapped county budget, but they expect a challenge could put the tax up for a vote in March elections.

Officials said the wheel tax will tack on an additional $50 registration fee for cars and $25 on motorcycles. The vote on first reading last week was 10-5. The second reading is scheduled for Oct. 24.

Commissioners approved a 50-cent property tax increase in August and said they had a plan to balance it by enacting a wheel tax.

"We're going to try pass a wheel tax to offset some of the property tax [increase]," Commission Chairman Les Price said. "That's what we came up with in the finance committee, and we're proposing we go forward with that."

County Attorney Billy Gouger said the language in the resolution "obligates the commission during the next fiscal year to reduce the property tax rate by an amount that's equal to the revenue furnished by the wheel tax."

Gouger estimated the wheel tax would bring in around $1.6 million per year.

"If the numbers hold the same next year as they are this year, [the county] would reduce the property tax rate by 26 cents," he said.

"Over one half of the increase that we just had would be taken away if this passes," Commissioner Gene Hargis said.

Commissioner Louin Campbell voted no, saying he thinks "people have a big enough burden on them right now without adding another tax to it."

"You're not adding another tax if you're going to take off of the property tax," Commissioner Donald Blansett said. "The property tax is already in. We're not adding anymore burden."

Campbell said that simply wasn't true.

"I'll be paying more on wheel tax now on top of the new property tax," he said. "I think it's time to start looking out for the poor people in the county instead of the people that have everything."

Commissioner Wayne Willis said the wheel tax will spread the tax burden across a larger group since only 40 percent of county residents own property, while more than 80 percent own a vehicle,

Campbell said anyone who is renting property is still paying property taxes.

"[The landlord] is including his property tax in that rent," he said. "You can bet your bottom dollar on that. They're charging those poor people who can't afford it more to rent. Those people are paying their taxes and [the landlord's] too."

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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