• Hendricks County council debate proposed tax increase

    June 20, 2012 No comments

    Two “no” votes on the Hendricks County Council were enough to stop a $5 increase on the wheel and sur taxes. But the proposal isn’t dead yet.

    As reported by Wade Coggeshall in the Hendricks County Flyer, Eric Wathen, president of the Hendricks County Board of Commissioners, asked the council to raise the wheel and sur taxes from $20 per vehicle to $25. Both fund road maintenance, the wheel tax applying to personal motor vehicles and the sur tax on commercial vehicles including trailers.

    Wathan iterated the need for the tax increase to help keep the county’s roads in good shape due to a decrease in the lack of funding from other revenue sources.

    Revenue from the state’s gas tax was down almost 2 percent for the county between 2003 and ’11. While money collected from the wheel tax was up almost 16 percent in that time, the cost of asphalt – both liquid and material – soared 75 percent and 80 percent respectively. Personnel costs also increased 45 percent, but that’s partly because some highway workers stopped getting paid from the general fund.

    Another problem for counties is how the state allocates some of its taxes. About a third of the money coming in through the gas tax goes to the state police and Bureau of Motor Vehicles, not roads. The 7 percent sales tax on gas doesn’t go to road maintenance either, but is allocated to the general fund.

    Wathen estimates that raising than wheel and sur taxes to $25 would give the county an additional $414,000, or about 50 percent more than what they have now for road maintenance. That’s enough to pave about four and a half miles.

    Wathan said that he continues to appeal to state representatives to keep transportation tax revenue where it belongs. But he also acknowledges that state officials view wheel taxes as a sign that counties are trying to help themselves.

    But councilmen Jay Puckett and Brad Whicker both agreed an extra $414,000 isn’t worth raising taxes for.

    Puckett said that more than $1 million of the money Hendricks County got from the state after its most recent calculation error has been slated for road maintenance. But with more than $8 million in paving that arguably should be done now, Highway Superintendent Curt Higginbotham doesn’t think that’s enough.

    A unanimous vote is required to pass the tax increase. Since it was 5-2, the county council has scheduled a special meeting for 9 a.m. June 29 at the Hendricks County Government Center to vote on the issue again. It must pass before July 1 in order to begin collecting the extra tax in 2013.

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