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County Council to consider wheel tax increase Tuesday

Monday, April 16, 2012

Having considered the possibility of raising the county motor vehicle excise surtax and wheel tax at its March meeting, the Putnam County Council will have the opportunity to act on the issue at its April meeting on Tuesday.

At issue for the council, as is so often the case for county fiscal and legislative officials, is finding a way to fund more road repairs. Decreased funding from the state coupled with ever-increasing material costs makes building, maintaining and repairing county roads a struggle.

Increasing these two taxes on the vehicles that actually use the roads may be one way to alleviate the funding gap.

John Habermann of the Purdue University Local Technical Assistance Program presented a funding model to the council in March that could net the county an additional $375,782.

As presented, the plan involved a flat rate charge of $20 per car, motorcycle and truck weighing less than 11,000, as opposed to the current funding formula of 10 percent the state excise tax.

On average, the change would cost county motorists an extra $10.54 per vehicle.

The wheel tax Habermann presented was more complicated, involving charges of anywhere from $5 to $40 for vehicles including large trucks, buses, RVs, semi-trailers and trailers.

The two ordinances were advertised at higher rates in the Monday, April 2 edition of the Banner Graphic -- $25 for the excise surtax and $40 across the board for the wheel tax.

However, these rates do not necessarily reflect what will ultimately be passed. County Auditor Stephanie Campbell recently told the Banner Graphic that the highest possible rate is advertised, giving the council the leeway to pass the ordinance at a lower rate.

One aspect of the county's budget that has changed since March is the additional $1.18 million recently added to the county budget following the April 5 announcement of a massive, statewide error by the Indiana Department of Revenue.

It is now up to the Putnam County Commissioners and Putnam County Council how to use this money, including how much might go toward county roads. Until the council meets on Tuesday, it remains unclear if these extra funds will affect the wheel tax decision.

While community members in attendance at last month's meeting were generally in favor of the increases, the council welcomes further comment from the public at Tuesday's meeting. The council meets at 6:30 p.m. at the Putnam County Emergency Operations Center, 1600 W. CR 225 South, Greencastle.

At the end of the March meeting, the seven councilmen agreed to research and reflect on the possible increases and come back to this month's meeting with some ideas.

In an online poll posted on www.bannergraphic.com, respondents were not in favor of the increased license plate costs, with 61.5 percent (362 votes) against the measure and 38.5 percent (227 votes) in favor.



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