Exemption of $40 wheel tax for disabled seniors referred to Hawkins Budget Committee

Jeff Bobo • Nov 29, 2018 at 10:15 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County commissioners tabled a proposed $40 wheel tax exemption that would affect about 1,220 elderly disabled residents, but the resolution’s sponsor was ready to vote on the exemption Monday night.

The resolution was introduced by Commissioner Syble Vaughan-Trent, and it only affects disabled property owners 65 and older who are actively on the state’s Tax Relief Program.

Those eligible citizens would receive one vehicle exemption from the $40 wheel tax increase that went into effect in October of 2017.

County Clerk Nancy Davis noted that the impact of the proposed wheel tax exemption would be a revenue decrease of $48,800 from wheel tax collections.

Commissioner Valerie Goins expressed concern about cutting revenue from the 2018-19 budget, which is already using about $95,000 in savings to balance.

“That means if we did this (exemption) mid-stream we’re probably going to have to take more money out of our fund balance,” Goins told the commission Monday. “Personally I think it would be better to wait until we have the (2019-20) budget hearings in May and at that time look at it.”

Budget Committee Chairman John Metz noted that the original intent of the commission when it approved the $40 wheel tax increase last year was to eventually be able to “wean” itself off that increase as other revenue sources improved.

The $40 wheel tax increase was intended to offset a $2 million revenue deficit that had been addressed in previous years by dipping into savings until there wasn’t enough savings to cover it in 2017-18.

“I think we need to look at a broader range, across-the-board abatement of a certain amount, possibly $10, as soon as we possibly could do that,” Metz said. “That’s going to $400,000 to $450,000, so we definitely want to find some offsetting entry to account for that.”

Vaughan-Trent opposed a motion to table her resolution, noting that the cost of the cuts could be offset by one-time-only expenditures in the budget that won’t take place in 2018-19.

But Commissioner Dawson Fields’ motion to table the resolution and refer it to the Budget Committee was approved 19-2 with Vaughan-Trent and Charles Housewright opposed.

Any changes to the wheel tax levy must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the full commission, requiring a minimum of 14 votes at two consecutive meetings.

First responder family benefits

Commissioner Jeff Barrett withdrew his resolution that would allow family members of county employee first responders who are killed in the line of duty to receive health insurance benefits for two years.

“I think it’s got a good purpose and good intentions, but I also realize there are some issues with this resolution, and some questions that may be asked tonight that I would not have the correct answers,” Barrett said.

Barrett forwarded the resolution to the Health Insurance Committee, of which he is a member, in hopes of possibly having a recommendation for the full commission in time to consider for the 2019-20 budget.

No more morning meetings

The commission voted 17-3 with one abstention to eliminate morning meetings, with all 12 monthly meetings to begin at 6 p.m. as of January of 2019.

Last month the commission voted 11-9 to change the starting time of its eight monthly night meetings from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m.

That change didn’t affect the quarterly morning meetings that started at 9 a.m. in January, April, July and October. But with the commission vote Monday, those meetings will now start at 6 p.m. as well.

Commissioners Keith Gibson, Goins and Glenda Davis voted no, and Syble Vaughan-Trent abstained.


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