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$50 Washington County wheel tax may be implemented for 2008-09

BEN INGRAM • Aug 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Washington County commissioners can expect to revisit the issue of a wheel tax this month, though its implementation date might not be what they expect.

According to Pat Wolfe, chairman of the County Commission’s Budget Committee, its members are expected to recommend that a $50 wheel tax go into effect July 1, 2008, in order to cut the portion of the property tax rate going to debt service by 20 cents during the 2008-09 fiscal year.

Budget Committee members also are likely to recommend a 2007-08 fiscal year budget Monday with a property tax increase somewhere in the neighborhood of 21 cents to 45 cents.

“We will be looking at the operating budget Monday and suggesting cuts,” said Wolfe, who reiterated that the $50 wheel tax recommendation would go into effect the next fiscal year, not this one.

“If we did a wheel tax this year, we’d only get about four months worth of receipts. Something like that would jeopardize the cash flow in the county and lower our general fund ... That’s just plain old economics and dollars and cents.

“A wheel tax would be most effective if started next fiscal year.”

Earlier in the week, Commissioner Frank Bolus urged committee members to take on more of a leadership role by recommending some form of a wheel tax despite various versions of one having been voted down on numerous occasions during the past few months.

“The ball’s in your court, the commission will listen to your recommendation,” Bolus said, noting the response from people in his district — “almost 90 percent” of whom have said that they would like the commission to vote in some kind of a wheel tax.

“I’m calling for you to take on a leadership role with this. There are logistics, but it doesn’t mean you can’t recommend it now.”

A 21-cent increase in the property tax has already been figured into this year’s budget in order to cover the county’s school building and jail/justice center projects. Anything above 21 cents will be used to provide for the county departments and their budget requests, as well as the highway department budget.

Still, Wolfe said he does not believe county property owners will be looking at a 45-cent property tax increase this year.

“It will be over 21 cents, but not 45 cents,” he said. “Out of Monday’s meeting we’ll get a recommendation that we can take to the commission.”

Wolfe said it could still be September before commissioners vote on a 2007-08 budget.

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