The Putnam County Council took a step toward raising some much-needed road funds for the county at Tuesday's monthly meeting.
While the wheel tax and county motor vehicle excise tax cannot be changed until the May council meeting, the council approved the rates to be advertised, which reflect what they will be considering at the next meeting.
The ordinances must be advertised twice in the Banner Graphic before the council can actually take a vote on the new rates. Tuesday's discussion focused on what rates to advertise for the upcoming meeting.
The initial advertisement, with all rates set at their maximum possible level, ran in the Monday, April 2 edition of the newspaper.
The county motor vehicle excise tax is being considered at $25 per car, motorcycle or truck up to 11,000 pounds. This is the maximum level any county in the state can charge for the excise tax.
According to information presented at the March meeting, the new rate would mean an average increase of $15.54 per passenger vehicle in license plate costs across the county.
The wheel tax, which affects larger vehicles and trailers, is a bit more complicated. All buses, RVs, semi-trailers and tractors would be facing a $40 wheel tax -- a rate most of these vehicles have been set at since 1996.
Trailers will be broken down by weights:
* Up to 3,000 pounds: $15
* 3,001-5,000 pounds: $20
* 5,001-7,000 pounds: $25
* 7,001-12,000 pounds: $30
* More than 12,000 pounds: $40
The only part of the debate unresolved at meeting's end was the issue of trucks. One proposal included no consideration of weight classes. All trucks over 11,000 pounds would face a $40 annual wheel tax.
However, there was some debate over how equitable this arrangement was. Council attorney Elizabeth South said she planned to look into the current ordinance and send information to the councilmen to consider if trucks would be divided into weight classes.
The final decision is left until May, but the councilmen said many of the comments they have heard from the public have been understanding of the need to raise road money, if not always supportive of the concept of higher taxes.
Two public officials at the meeting were vocal in their support of something that benefits the health of Putnam County roads.
"This is one of very few tools the legislature has given you to address the road problem," Putnam County Economic Development Director Bill Dory said.
"I don't know how else we're going to do it," Greencastle Mayor Sue Murray said. "It's going to continue to get worse and we're going to continue to lose ground."
One county commissioner and one councilman combined to make a statement that has been echoed several times in this debate.
"Hit one good chuckhole ..." Commissioner Gene Beck said.
"... and the $15 is not very much," Councilman Keith Berry chimed in.
The next meeting of the Putnam County Council is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 15.