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Commissioners Give Nod to $50 Wheel Tax: Voters to decide August 7th

By Pat Hunter


 See Video Clips  * Videos are made using Windows Media Player wm files.


Loudon County Commissioners unanimously approved Commissioner Bob Franke’s motion, which was seconded by fellow Budget Committee member Nancy Marcus. The motion was to place a $50 wheel tax referendum on the August 7th Loudon County General Election. The wheel tax if approved by voters would generate about $2.7 Million in revenues, which would then be split between the Loudon County Schools Capital Building Fund and Lenoir City School system.


Wheel Tax Revenues Projections $2.7 Million, Annually


Click to view pdf tables   Table 6 - 2008 Wheel tax data- CTAS    

Table 7 - 2007 Motor Vehicle Registrations - CTAS

Source: CTAS - County Technical Assistance Services, University of Tennessee.


Two individuals spoke about the proposed wheel tax at the June 2nd commission meeting. Richard Truitt, 5th District resident spoke against the $50 wheel tax. Truitt referred to the proposed wheel tax as the “Tellico Village Relief Act.” Truitt contends that the proposed wheel tax will hurt the people who can least afford to pay the tax. Truitt believes that the wheel tax burden would be shifted from the rich to the poor, Robinhood in reverse. The wheel tax idea was originally suggested by Commissioner Don Miller, Tellico Village resident and retired Exxon executive. Truitt gave some examples of what a 20 cent property tax hike would do to a person living in an expensive home verses someone living in a lower appraised home, which would end up paying more. He gave numerous examples and commented that many people have two cars. For more information on Truitt's chart, please click WHEEL TAX (TELLICO VILLAGE RELIEF ACT) Guest editorial


Click Edward Headlee asked that Commissioners  to consider the wording on the Wheel Tax Resolution. Director Headlee commented that he had not seen the wording on the issue on the Wheel Tax Ballot that would go on the ballot in August. He encouraged Commission to structure the wording of the tax ballot question similar to the one that they used in Knox County about a year or so ago. To  structure the wording so the people would be voting on either whatever rate of wheel tax determined by commission, or an equal amount of property tax pennies to generate the same revenue to where the people would basically be deciding, which way they wanted to pay the increase revenue. He asked Commissioners to seriously consider the wording. Commissioner Earlena Maples replied, that doesn’t give them a "no choice." No Ma'am, replied Headlee as he returned to his seat. Director Headlee will retire at the end of June 30.


Commissioner Bob Franke tried to counter Truitt's argument by saying that he had his own computations and that the average assessed home value in Loudon County was about $135,000. At the current property tax rate of $1.84, the tax bill on that property would be $621. But with a 20 cent property tax hike, the increase would go from $621 to $689, a difference of about $68. But if someone owned one vehicle using the $50 wheel tax plus the $621 tax bill, the combined tax would equal $671 for a savings of $18. He gave other examples but many in the audience didn't seem to buy into Franke's arguments and grumbled as he spoke. Someone near me said, how many families have just one car?


Mayor Doyle Arp commented that normally people are not allowed to speak once the commission meeting begins but he saw Dana Zehner, Election Director, waving her hands from her seat and he decided to let her speak. Zehner went to the podium to clarify that if the Wheel Tax referendum were to be placed on the ballot that it could only be stated as “For” or “Against” a wheel tax. Mayor Doyle Arp said that’s what he thought and he was glad to see her clarify the ballot referendum wording issue. Mayor Arp referred to Headlee's wording as an ultimatum of having to choose whether to die by a rope or a gun. Video Clip


The voters will have the final say on the $50 wheel tax referendum. The media is already calling the proposed wheel tax, the highest in East Tennessee. Some are asking why commissioners didn't go with a $10 or $25 wheel tax, something that people could support given the present economic recession?


Only time will tell if people are willing to pay $50 for another new tax. This will be the second tax for schools passed within two years. The first tax was called the Adequate Facilities Tax for Schools imposed on new residential development, which was supposed to generate $1 Million. What happened to the taxes from that money, did it go directly to schools?