County Council votes not to adjust Wheel Tax for 2018

Kosciusko County won’t be adjusting next year’s wheel tax that was imposed two years ago in an effort to greatly bolster road repairs.

A chance to review the status of the tax was on the agenda at the council’s meeting Thursday night, and quick action would have been needed to make any adjustments because of a state-imposed schedule.

The tax generated $1.8 million in 2016 and has allowed the county to begin digging out of a hole in maintaining county roads.

A formal reconsideration of the tax came at a time when efforts by the state to improve road conditions also are surfacing as a result of a 10-cent hike in the state gas tax.

The county is expected to see about $2.2 million from the gas tax and other money for local road projects in the next year. This week, the county highway department announced its first project – resurfacing  a 7.5-mile stretch of CR 900N between Ind. 15 and Ind. 19 next year.

Also on Thursday, the state unveiled spending initiatives across the state, including for Kosciusko County, which is expected to see $41.3 million over the next five years for numerous state roads and U.S. 30.

Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office said the local work will mean 212 lane miles will be resurfaced and 11 bridges will be replaced or repaired in Kosciusko County.

Nobody at the council meeting mentioned the announcement from the state during the discussion of the wheel tax status, but it didn’t really matter because some council members said they were not prepared to consider any changes.

Asked if there was any appetite to adjust the tax – up or down – councilman Ernie Wiggins said there was no appetite to do anything without more information.

Officials said they are still waiting to receive information from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, which calculates potential revenues based on data concerning the number of vehicles and trailers registered in the county.

Council voted 6-1 to take no action on the wheel tax this year, but some expressed interest in looking into details earlier next year.

While the tax hike was hotly debated two years ago, council members have said they believe taxpayers are seeing the benefits.

A year ago, the topic was barely on the radar during county elections.

Even though the wheel tax was implemented just two years ago, county council has seen significant turnover since then as a result of resignations, the 2016 election and the death of council president Bob Sanders.

The only two council members who voted on the tax and remain on the council are Jon Garber and Doug Heinisch.

Council also approved several transfers, including two for a total of $4,334 to cover repairs involving two accidents involving sheriff’s vehicles.

Council also heard presentations from nine non-profit groups seeking to continue funding from the county. The representatives gave similar presentations to the county commissioners.

Council took the information under advisement.