County forms committee to study wheel tax option

Published 6:15 pm Wednesday, June 7, 2017

With Carter County once again facing a deficit budget for the upcoming fiscal year, members of the Carter County Financial Management Committee voted to form a study group to look at the implementation of a wheel tax as another possible form of revenue for the county.

The idea of discussing a wheel tax — which is a county tax paid by vehicle owners when they register their car or renew their tags — was brought up by Committee Chairman Ray Lyons.

“The only thing I’m asking you to do is have a discussion with me this morning,” Lyons said, adding he is not proposing the county implement such a tax. “I’m trying to have an alternative to property tax.”

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“There are a lot of renters in Carter County who aren’t paying anything,” Lyons added.

Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey countered that those who rent do pay for county services through their rent which the property owner then uses to pay for the property taxes.

“I’m adamantly opposed to any new tax, wheel tax or otherwise,” Humphrey said. “We just need to manage within our means.”

Humphrey said until the County’s elected officials and department heads “cut to the point we can’t cut anymore” he did not think the county should consider any alternate taxes or revenue sources.

Lyons said he felt a wheel tax could bring in revenue to the county while allowing the county to lower the property tax rate.

“We have over 55,000 registered vehicles in Carter County,” Lyons said. If a wheel tax of $20 per car were implemented it would bring in around $1.1 Million, Lyons said.

Commissioner Charles Von Cannon said he felt the county should look for ways to fund the $700,000 deficit within the county’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Carter County Finance Director Christa Byrd said she also felt the county should address that deficit funding as well as the county’s tendency to dip into fund balances designed for emergency expenditures to fund everyday costs.

“We’re desperately underfunded,” Byrd said. “We can’t keep doing this year after year. Either the revenues have to go up, or expenditures have to go down.”

Commissioner Sonja Culler, who was filling in for Commissioner Danny Ward, made a motion to form a study committee to research the issues surrounding the implementation of a wheel tax and then report back to the Financial Management Committee with their findings. Carter County Director of Schools Dr. Kevin Ward provided the second for the motion, which passed by a vote of 6-1 with Humphrey casting the lone dissenting vote.