Wheel Tax to Stay the Same in 2016

Kosciusko County Council voted Thursday not to reduce some portions of the wheel tax, leaving the full $40 charge for trailers of all sizes in place for 2016.
Only councilmen Jon Fussle and Larry Teghtmeyer voted for the amendment, which would have lowered the tax to $15 for trailers with a weight capacity in the 3,000-pound range and to $25 for trailers in the 5,000-pound range. This was the last chance to pass the amendment in time to take effect next year, after it failed to gain unanimous support last month when councilmen Jim Moyer, Jon Garber and Doug Heinisch voted against it.
Thursday’s vote followed comments from the public and discussion among council members weighing the fairness of the tax against the need for the dedicated source of road maintenance money. 
Earlier in the meeting they approved $671,000 in bituminous material and gravel purchases for road work, money directly attributed to income from the tax this year, and another $100,000 in bituminous covered by the motor vehicle highway fund.
The tax has raised a total of $1.134 million in the first five months, according to council President Bob Sanders. Based on that, he calculated the tax generating $2.3 million by year’s end, a little short of the original $2.7 million reckoning. 
He also noted that the county has spent $499,000 on road patching so far this year, up from $481,000 at this time last year, an increase that Highway Superintendent Scott Tilden attributed to two severe winters back to back and a rough spring thaw.
There was disagreement over just how much revenue would be lost to the reductions, which varied depending on what factors councilmen took into consideration and whether they had the total or only the county-dedicated portion in mind. Estimates ranged from $186,000, according to Teghtmeyer, to $277,000, according to Sanders.
Councilmen also had different ways of looking at the lost revenue or the cost of the tax to residents. To Sanders, a one-time $40 fee represents only 11 cents per day, easily affordable for trailer owners – while to Fussle, $186,000 is just 1 percent of the county’s yearly budget, money he was confident they could find somewhere.
Public comments before the vote were mostly in support of keeping the tax as-is. Council heard from the directors of the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce, Kosciusko Economic Development Corp. and the Builders Association Kosciusko Fulton Counties that all three organizations support keeping the full tax in place, at least for the next year. 
Council will look at the wheel tax again in May 2016.
Also Thursday, council voted to make Kosciusko the 11th member of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, a Regional Development Authority centered around Fort Wayne. It is one of about nine RDAs in the state formed in response to the Regional Cities Initiative in hopes of receiving part of the millions of dollars in grant money being offered for regional economic development projects.
Nominations for a five-member board to govern the partnership of 11 counties and 16 cities will be accepted beginning next week, council heard, and the NIRP intends to submit its application to the program by July 1. Preference will be given to RDAs with projects ready to be funded, according to NIRP President John Sampson.
And council voted to continue real property tax abatements for nine companies and personal property abatements for seven, after hearing that all are meeting or exceeding the investment and employment terms of their abatements. 
The real abatements are held by Biomet, Louis Dreyfus, North Central LP, Thornburgh Family LP, Custom Engineered Wheels Inc., Cass Holdings LLC, NG Instruments Inc. and Alpha Manufacturing and Design/The Garden Spot LLC; the personal abatements are held by Louis Dreyfus, Maple Leaf Farms Inc., Seymour-Midwest LLC, RR Donnelley Inc., Custom Engineered Wheels, Biomet and IDNA Series Inc.


(Story from the Times Union)