Wheel tax voted down at special Adams County Council meeting on Tuesday night

Authored by Bob Adams on Jun 30, 2010

Saying “I haven’t heard anyone tonight saying they are for this,” Adams County Councilman Phil Wulliman introduced a motion to table the implementation of a county-wide wheel tax for at least a year at a special meeting of the Adams County Council Tuesday night.
After Councilman Lynn Selking seconded the motion, Council President Tom Kruekeberg called for a vote on the issue and all of the council members present, Wulliman, Selking, Eric Orr and Randy Colclasure, voted in favor of tabling the wheel tax. Council members Kenyon Sprunger and Dennis Bluhm were not at the meeting.
The public meeting at Adams Central Tuesday night was attended by about 35 people and began with Adams County Auditor Bill Borne explaining that the highway department was entirely funded by various gasoline taxes and registration fees, but was not supported at all by property taxes.
With gasoline sales continuing to drop, and the state taking more and more of the gasoline tax for its own use the revenue from the two funds which supply the highway department continues to drop.
Borne reported that the Motor Vehicle Fund has dropped 10.1 percent since 2006, and the Local Road and Street Fund has dropped 11.63 percent during the same period.
During this same time period, the cost of stone has increased 40 percent and the cost of road oil has gone up an astounding 286 percent.
“Eight to ten years ago, we were building between 14 and 18 miles of new road every year,” claimed Adams County Commissioner Doug Bauman. “This year we will not build any new roads. We had planned to chip and seal about 80 miles of county roads this year. We will probably end up doing less than half that. We will do the best job we can with the funds we have available.”
Adams County has about 700 miles of road, both gravel and paved. The county was on a five year maintenance plan with the paved roads, which meant that about 100 miles of county roads needed to be re-chipped and sealed each year just to keep up.
Figures given by Borne during his presentation indicated that a wheel tax would raise between $150,000 and $900,000. By law, the council could have voted to institute a wheel tax of between $7.50 and $25.00 on most cars, and between $25.00 and $40.00 on most other vehicles. The tax would have applied to any vehicle registered with the State Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
Government vehicles, school busses, and some church vehicles would have been exempt from the tax.
Saying “We try to think of everybody” by instituting a tax, Colclasure indicated he would have been in favor of raising fees on Amish horse-drawn vehicles by the same amount that would have been charged for automobiles.
License plates for Amish vehicles are not regulated by the state. This is left up to individual counties, and Adams County currently charges $60 for plates for each horse-drawn buggy. Buggies, wagons, and trailers used by the Amish for agricultural purposes are exempt from buying plates.
Comments made during the public portion of the meeting ranged from retired people being on fixed incomes to comments about the highway department becoming more efficient. One Geneva resident noted that that portions of his property tax paid to the town of Geneva goes toward maintaining the streets in Geneva, and since he did not use county roads, he was not in favor of paying a tax to support county roads.
Colclasure said he was concerned about the effect of lack of maintenance on roads and how much harder it would be to attract new businesses to the county with bad roads, Bauman added that a lack of funds would mean a cut in services. “You have to decide which services you want cut,” Bauman added.
The council was operating under a short deadline as the decision to implement for 2011 had to be made before July1. By tabling the tax, the earliest any wheel tax could not be implemented will be January 1, 2012.

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