Hawkins commission tables further wheel tax talks pending 2018-19 budget hearings

Jeff Bobo • Feb 27, 2018 at 5:30 PM


ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County commissioners won't make any decisions on the wheel tax — whether to give senior citizens a $40 exemption or do away with it completely — until it meets in May for 2018-19 budget workshops.

For the third consecutive month, the Hawkins County Commission was presented Monday with a resolution sponsored by commissioners Michael Herrell and Fred Castle seeking an exemption of the $40 wheel tax increase for senior citizens.

The original proposal offered the exemption for everyone 70 and older and was to begin in the current fiscal year as soon as notice and the paperwork could be completed.

Last month, a revised proposal offered the exemption for county residents 80 and older.

Monday's resolution set the age back to 70 and also added the provisions that it be implemented in the 2018-19 budget and that only one exemption be allowed per household.

Commissioner Dwight Carter made a motion to amend the Herrell/Castle resolution by eliminating the wheel tax completely as of Oct. 1, exactly one year after it was implemented. Initially, Carter didn't offer an alternate revenue source to offset the $2.1 million in revenue his motion would cost.

Carter later said he preferred the 20 cent property tax increase to replace that lost revenue. That property tax increase was proposed, approved and then rescinded last June before the $40 wheel tax increase was approved.

The $40 wheel tax increase was projected to raise $2.1 million in new revenue in a full fiscal year, and it was intended to offset a $2 million revenue deficit in the county's general fund budget.

But three months worth of revenue was lost because it legally couldn't be implemented until Oct. 1

During last week's Budget Committee meeting, it was revealed that as of the end of January the wheel tax was $712,000 behind what was needed to meet revenue projections.

Commissioner Eugene Christian, who also sits on the Budget Committee, recommended that the commission take no action on the wheel tax until it meets in budget workshop on May 2, 8 and 11.

"Then we would have February, March, and April (wheel tax revenue figures) and we can see where we're at," Christian said. "If we need to do something, make the decision then."

Commissioner Dawson Fields echoed Christian's recommendation and made a motion to table the wheel tax resolution pending completion of the May budget workshops.

"I'm not for or against any age group," Fields said. "I see people struggle at the age of 18. ... I've seen people who are 80 years old who don't have running water."

Budget Committee Chairman Stacy Vaughan noted that for the first time since he joined the County Commission in the early 2000s budget hearings will be held before the full commission instead of strictly the committee.

"How you decide to make that budget is going to determine what you do with the wheel tax or if you want to do away with the wheel tax and have a property tax," Vaughan said. "All 21 are going to have a hand in that budget. ... Last year, every time there was something presented by the Budget Committee there was such as gap between the committee and other commissioners that we're bringing it all together this time."

The motion to table was approved 14-6 with no votes cast by commissioners Syble Vaughan-Trent, B.D. Cradic, Fred Castle, Danny Alvis, Rick Brewer and Michael Herrell.

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