Sullivan residents may vote on wheel tax

J. H. Osborne • Jul 16, 2012 at 10:29 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullivan County Commission might ask county residents to vote on whether or not to add a wheel tax to create a new revenue stream for county government.

A resolution introduced on first reading Monday seeks to put the issue on the ballot in November.

It would create a tiered wheel tax in Sullivan County — $50 per year for commercial vehicles, $25 per year for cars and light trucks, and $15 for all other licensed vehicles — and likely take effect beginning Jan. 1, 2013, said County Commissioner Dwight King.

King has been listed as the secondary sponsor on the version of the resolution distributed to commissioners Monday morning. But when the item’s turn on the agenda came, King said Commissioner Cathy Armstrong — who was absent — had sent him an e-mail that said she had a conflict and could no longer sponsor the resolution.

So King asked to be listed as primary sponsor and then asked if anyone else would step forward to be co-sponsor. Commissioner Ty Boomershine agreed to do so.

King said he will amend the resolution to require that if a wheel tax is approved, the county’s property tax rate would be reduced by an amount to equal the same amount of revenue. In other words, it would be a wash, financially, for the county.

But King said he supports putting the issue before voters because he’s had many constituents say they favor a wheel tax because they perceive it as a way of snaring county residents who otherwise don’t pay any taxes.

King said he would pull his sponsorship of the resolution if it turned out the county would be required to pay for a special election, which Administrator of Elections Jason Booher said would cost an estimated $90,000.

State law dictates the timing of placing a referendum on a ballot, Booher said — and commission consideration of the resolution in August would fall within the legal window of opportunity to place the wheel tax question on the Nov. 6 ballot. Placing it on that ballot would not cost the county anything extra, Booher said.

Commissioner Michael Surgenor called to table the resolution, a move that could have killed it on the spot.

County Mayor Steve Godsey argued that was not allowed under procedural rules of the commission, and Surgenor withdrew his call to table.

The resolution to put the wheel tax question on the Nov. 6 ballot will be up for potential discussion by each of the commission’s three primary committee next month, and could come back for a vote by the full commission on Aug. 20.

Recommended for You

    Kingsport Times News Videos