County seeks more wheel tax revenue
By Steve Short
Gibson Co. commissioners plan to vote Monday, Jan. 9 on a resolution that proposes increasing the wheel tax on vehicles and motorcycles.
The wheel tax for vehicles would go from the current $35.75 fee to $50.75. The wheel tax for motorcycles would increase from $5 to $15.75.
The revenues generated by the wheel tax would go solely to the county Highway Department.
The resolution needs a two thirds majority, or 17 commissioners voting to approve. If approved by the county commission, a request would be sent to the Tennessee General Assembly asking to pass a Private Act setting the Wheel Tax on vehicles at $50.75 and motorcycles at $15.75. 75 cents of the amount goes to the County Clerk’s office as a collection fee.
“We’re trying to reallocate funding so Highway Department funding comes solely from wheel tax,” said county Budget Chairman Mike Longmire, a Humboldt commissioner. “We want the Highway Department to be funded exclusively by the wheel tax. That’s the goal.”
“When we say ‘wheel tax,’ I think that should be allocated back to roads,” Longmire added. “The wheel tax is a fair tax across the board. It pertains to every vehicle on the road registered in Gibson Co. What will happen to the property tax will be the next question for the county. The property tax will be reevaluated after the budget hearing for the 2017-18 budget.”
Mr. Longmire said Monday morning, that the resolution erroneously states the wheel tax for motorcycles would increase to $20.75. Commissioners plan to amend the resolution Jan. 9.
The Gibson Co. wheel tax, called the County Motor Vehicle Privilege Tax, was first implemented in 1975 to pay for road construction. The 1975 tax amounts were $10 for vehicles and $5 for motorcycles.
In 1987, the county raised the wheel tax by $15 and allocated $5 for debt service and $10 for basing and paving roads.
In 2005, the Gibson Co. wheel tax was increased by $10 to $35.75, with new funds going into the General Fund, allowing the county to decrease in the property tax rate.
The new resolution for Jan. 9 seeks to allocate all wheel tax revenue solely to the Highway Dept., instead of putting some revenue in the General Fund and/or Debt Service.
Mr. Longmire said the Budget Committee has studied tax revenue allocations for the past two years.
“The Budget Committee is looking at a realignment that puts the wheel tax back to Highway Department,” he said. “We’re not just looking at today, but for a funding amount that will satisfy the need for the next four to five years. The last thing we want to do is come back for another proposal next year and the next year. We’re trying to be proactive on this issue with long-range planning in mind for years ahead. In today’s world, the current wheel tax ($35.75 for vehicles) is not adequate to meet the needs of the Highway Department.”
Gibson Co. residents have about 42,000 vehicles.
Current vehicle wheel tax rates for some neighboring counties, according to the County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS): Haywood Co. $90, Crockett Co. $73.50, Chester Co. $65.35, Dyer Co. $60.15, Henderson Co. $60, Carroll Co. $55, Obion Co. $40, Weakley Co. $40. The Henderson Co. wheel tax revenue goes to fund schools, according to a source.
Madison Co. does not impose a wheel tax. Com. Mike Longmire says Madison Co. receives enough sales tax revenue and a wheel tax is not needed.
“People want to compare Gibson Co. with Madison Co., but there’s no comparison with Madison Co.,” said Longmire. “They have more sales tax dollars; that’s how they’re able to not have a wheel tax. They’re fortunate to have such a great sales tax base.”
If the new rates are approved, motorcycle owners in Gibson Co. would see their wheel tax amount increase to $15.75. The county’s wheel tax for motorcycles has remained at $5 since 1975. “Motorcycle owners have been fortunate to have a low wheel tax rate for as long as we’ve had the wheel tax,” said Longmire.