The increase was not as big as originally discussed, but Monroe County residents will have to pay more when they renew their car tags starting in October if commissioners approve a wheel tax increase with one more vote at their July 23 meeting.
With talk of the wheel tax being increased by $50 a year, more community members than normal turned out for the June meeting of the Monroe County Commission on Tuesday. Most people in the audience were clearly not happy and they were not cheered up any despite the County Commission dropping the increase from $50 to $25.
Initially, 4th District Commissioner Paulette Summey made the motion to pass a $50 increase and 2nd District Commissioner Chad Lemming seconded it, but that was simply so the commission could discuss the motion.
First District Commissioner Joe Anderson then put forth the idea of only raising the wheel tax $25, an idea he had floated at a commission workshop the night before. The commission agreed, with that motion passing by a 7-3 vote. Any tax increase must be approved by two thirds of the commission and seven votes reached that requirement.
Bill Shadden, Roger Thomas and Chris Wiseman, all commissioners from the 3rd District, voted against the increase.
People in the audience voiced their anger and kept asking questions and making remarks, though County Mayor Mitch Ingram and the commissioners studiously ignored them.
Some of the things heard from the audience included a question of why the 1993 wheel tax was not repealed when two new high schools and a renovation were paid for, why it was being called a privilege tax as this is a poor county, “we can’t afford it,” and “we’ll remember this come election time.”
After the meeting, Monroe County Clerk Larry Sloan, whose office is tasked with collecting tag renewals, said the 1993 wheel tax had become a tax that stays in place as long as there is debt associated with new schools, and there have been several new schools built or renovations done since 1993.
Angela Sloan, who has worked for the County Clerk’s Office for approximately three decades, said she knows people will blame them.
“I feel sorry for the clerks who work up front,” she said. “People will come in and yell at them and maybe even throw money at them. And they had absolutely nothing at all to do with it.”
With the normal $29 fee, the 1993 wheel tax of $25 and the new wheel tax of $25, renewing the registration on your car in Monroe County will now cost you $79. Divided by 12, that comes out to $6.59 a month.
While the $25 increase will help balance the budget, it does not cover the nearly $5-million short fall, though the new Justice Center coming in under by budget by $1.4 million should help cover it for the 2019-20 budget.
The public will be able to have its voice heard during a public comment forum at the next County Commission meeting on July 23. The wheel tax increase must pass one more vote before it becomes law.
Lake County has a wheel tax of $100, the highest in the state. On the other end of that spectrum, however, several counties, including all that border Monroe County, do not have wheel taxes.