County Votes Down Wheel Tax Change, Will Try Once More

An amendment to lower part of the wheel tax failed to get the unanimous assent needed Thursday when three councilmen decided that giving an inch would lose too many miles.
The Kosciusko County Council will try one more time next month to amend the across-the-board $40 tax that some consider unfairly applied. Approval will be needed from only a majority of those present to pass it, and passage in June is needed for the lower tax to start in January.
Councilmen Jim Moyer, Jon Garber and Doug Heinisch voted against the amendment Thursday, which would have lowered the tax to $15 for trailers with a weight capacity between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds and to $25 for those between 5,000 and 9,000 pounds. The three councilmen also had voted against drafting the ordinance in April, maintaining that the county doesn’t have a solid idea yet of how much the wheel tax will collect in its first year and that what it does receive may not be enough to keep roads maintained.
Before the vote, council President Bob Sanders presented the potential lost funds in terms of miles of road to be paved. He calculated funds collected on all vehicle categories under the current wheel tax at $505,000, which, at $100,000 per mile, would provide for the upkeep of five miles of road a year. 
The county would be giving up about three miles of road under the amended wheel tax, he said. He also figured the county would lose only two miles of paving if as many as half of trailer owners decided $40 was too much and refused to register.
Councilman Larry Teghtmeyer had made the motion to vote on approval, arguing that it concerned him that some surrounding counties have a lower wheel tax and that charging $40 doesn’t feel right.
Leesburg resident Jim Newcombe was the only audience member to remark on the tax, saying it would be a mistake to lower it and that the difference between $25 and $40 is less meaningful to a boat trailer owner than to road maintenance.
Also Thursday, council approved a confirmatory resolution on a three-year vacant building tax abatement for Al and the J’s Enterprise, which plans to renovate a building at 230 W. Old 30 for two manufacturing companies. The abatement applies to property taxes on the $45,000 in improvements planned for the building.
The two tenants will be D&D Maintenance, which will increase its workforce from three to seven employees with a payroll higher by $94,000; and Core Mechanical, which will double employment from four to eight with a $106,000 payroll increase.
And council approved a recommended partnership with the Fort Wayne region for purposes of the Regional Cities Initiative, a state program that will make up to $84 million available in matching grants for economic development. County Commissioners and Warsaw City Council previously approved the recommendation.
Brad Bishop, OrthoWorx executive director, and Suzie Light, Kosciusko County Community Foundation executive director, presented the recommendation to county council. Bishop also noted they have applied for federal recognition as an “orthopedic corridor,” which makes additional grant money available.
It is yet to be seen how Kosciusko can ensure it has a voice on the five-member appointed committee that will oversee the regional partnership, council heard, though Light said there will be committees for various proposed projects that will feed information to the board.
“If we want to be engaged in this process, we must have strong voices at all those levels,” she said.

(Story By The Times Union)