Budget Committee members express concerns about new proposed wheel tax exemption

Jeff Bobo • Nov 19, 2018 at 9:30 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County Commission's Budget Committee took no action Monday on a resolution that would exclude disabled property owners 65 and older from having to pay the $40 wheel tax increase that went into effect last year.

That proposal has been discussed and voted on by the County Commission several times since the $40 wheel tax increase was enacted in October 2017 and has yet to pass.

This latest wheel tax exemption resolution was introduced by Commissioner Syble Vaughan-Trent, who didn't attend Monday's Budget Committee meeting.

Some Budget Committee members expressed reservations about the proposal, which only affects disabled property owners 65 and older who are actively on the state's Tax Relief Program.

Committee member Valerie Goins noted that the commission has already approved a 2018-19 fiscal year budget that used $95,284 in savings to balance. She cautioned against reducing revenue any further.

"My only concern with that is we're going to have a budget shortfall if we adopt that at this time in the budget," Goins said.

She said the time to consider this type of proposal is during budget hearings, which did take place earlier this year and it was voted down.

"At that point in time, that would have been a fine time to do it," Goins added. "I feel at this point in time is really not a good time to do it because we had to use $95,284 out of our fund balance to balance our budget for this year, so I have a problem with us doing something like that and possibly using more out of fund balance."

County Clerk Nancy Davis said that based on the 1,220 Hawkins County residents in this year's tax relief program, assuming each of those people has a vehicle to tag, would amount to $48,800 in lost revenue.

Committee Chairman John Metz expressed concern with the "minute demographic of the population" that the resolution would benefit.

Metz noted that the intent of the previous Budget Committee and some other commissioners was to eventually wean the county off the $40 wheel tax over time as the fund balance and other revenue grew.

Of that $40, $10 was to benefit county funding of fire, rescue and other public safety.

"One thing I definitely disagree with on that resolution is abating the entire $40 because you're isolating the demographic that is actually going to utilize emergency services more than the average citizen," Metz said.

The resolution will be considered for approval at the County Commission's next meeting on Nov. 26 at 6 p.m. in the Hawkins County Courthouse.

Wheel tax collections on the rise

Davis gave the committee a report comparing wheel tax collections from this past October compared to October 2017, which was the first month the $40 increase went into effect.

In October 2017, the county clerk collected $223,896, compared to this October, when it was $308,822, which was an increase of $84,925.


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