Do you know what time it is? It’s Wheel Tax Time!

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At the county council meeting on Tuesday, April 23, 2013, the wheel tax again came up for introduction   The three year sunset clause is expected to expire in December, and the county must have the wheel tax approved and shipped off to the State of Indiana by July 1st.    As can be expected, it is getting a wave of comments, ideas and criticism.

Do we need it?  Probably.  Do we feel we are getting our money’s worth?  Nope.  Is there any transparency as promised in 2009?  Hardly.  It’s as murky as a swamp.   The big discussion is the sunset clause.  The tax may have passed unanimously had this been in the ordnance up for adoption.   It was removed.  After all, even a smidgen of transparency is better than none

Council person Mike Jones posted on the local newspaper:

Frankly I’m not inherently opposed to a sunset clause, but feel it does nothing to enhance or detract from County Councils ability to implement or rescind the tax at any point in time. The requirement both on the city and county remain to submit paving plans are intact in the ordinance by April 1st of each year. If at anytime the Council determines that the Highway Garage is not performing as it should or other monies become available, the wheel tax can be rescinded at any time. “

Wheel tax still controversial April 24, 2013 Muncie Star Press

If it doesn’t add or detract, than what’s the problem?  Include it and move on.  The people want it.

Let me give you a little history on the wheel tax going back a few years.

During Todd Donati’s tenure as a county council member, he expressed some interest in additional gasoline taxes or really any tax would do.  County attorney, John H. Brooke, responded to his request in a letter dated 4-29-03.  Here John Brooke explains how to get additional taxes.

April 29, 2003

Todd Donati

1025 West Royerton Road

Muncie, Indiana   47303

Re:     Delaware County Council Wheel Tax and Gasoline Tax

Dear Todd:

At a recent Finance Committee meeting you requested some information concerning possible sources of revenue to the County using Wheel Taxes or a special Gasoline Tax.  The Commissioners have discussed the idea of a Wheel Tax to increase revenue in Delaware County.  You expressed a desire for a possible Gasoline Tax to increase revenue for roads and road repair.

With respect to a Gasoline Tax, counties do not have the authority to create, add or supplement any tax on gasoline for its own use.  I.C. 6-6-1.1-1204.  This specific statute prohibits any governmental agency (except the State) from taxing gasoline in any way.

The implementation of a Wheel Tax is available to the County.  There also is another device known as a County Motor Vehicle Excise Surtax which can be imposed by the County.

DCC – ltr to Todd Donati re County Wheel Tax & Gasoline Tax research 042903

Even though Donati campaigned on being fiscally responsible in 2012 and he pulled the county from financial devastation when he took office as a county council don’t you love campaign rhetoric), he still was devising ways to get more of your money.

In 2007 the county received approximately $3.7 million and the city received approximately $2.6 million but only used $603,000 for paving.  The rest went to salaries.

“State officials have implied to local government leaders they wouldn’t consider increasing Indiana’s gasoline tax, for example, until counties try to help themselves by adopting a wheel tax.

“They won’t say that publicly,” Delaware County Commissioner John Brooke said, noting that the state has cut MVH and LRS funds three years in a row.

“They’re going to keep cutting MVH and LRS funds until counties are forced to adopt a wheel tax to help themselves,” Brooke said. “I think it would be difficult at this juncture. At some point, we’ll have to have a discussion about it.”  What Muncie needs better roads Muncie Star Press 2-17-08

According to the Indiana Gateway (a resource for government documents) expected revenue and budget for both the City of Muncie and Delaware County is listed below:

  • Estimated revenue for county highway dept.  $2,845,519
  • Estimated county wheel tax $1,052,754.
  • Budget for county highway dept. $2,891,574 (46,055)
  • Estimated revenue for City of Muncie $3,633,976 (includes other sources of revenue and the wheel tax I believe)
  • Estimated LRS for City of Muncie $552,062
  • Budget for Board of Public Works $3,233,383 (47,345)

Indiana Gateway

Here is how the paving plan was presented in it’s first year by the previous mayor, Sharon McShurley and Pete Heuer.  Every street had a point A and a point B and the cost associated with the paving.

• Perkins Avenue from Memorial Drive to Kilgore Avenue: $69,520.

• Reserve Street from McGalliard Road to 1,450 feet south thereof: $22,075.

• Mock Avenue from 21st Street to 26th Street: $31,275.

• 18th Street from Walnut Street to Macedonia Avenue: $115,865.

• Petty Road from Tillotson Avenue to Greenbriar Road: $37,955.

• Centennial Avenue from Wheeling Avenue to Granville Avenue: $73,445.

• Yale Avenue from Wheeling Avenue to Cowing Park Drive: $59,730.

• Main Street from Jackson Street to Kilgore Avenue: $28,590.

• Unallocated funds for other problem areas: $185,900

Is it really that hard to produce this information so the citizens can see where the money is going?  Currently, we get a map with color coding which is great for presentation mode, does nothing for providing financial information.  Which is what we have been asking since the wheel tax was introduced.  Neither does an elected official stating roads have been paved do much in the way of helping us  follow the tax dollars.

Note to the citizens:  Let’s not forget, the county highway department monies does not go to any paving,  the only way we can purchase materials is through the wheel tax. We might not like it, but perhaps the council can restructure the dept so more money is freed up for paving.

Put their feet to the fire until we get some results, or vote them out in 2014. The power is really in the citizen’s hands, folks. Don’t forget that. Put the pressure on ’em.

Note to elected officials:  The citizens and taxpayers require a financial accounting, so provide it and you won’t have the backlash you are seeing today.

Muncie Free Press Delaware County Council meeting

Our View:  Wheel Tax is almost beyond debate

Wheel Tax is still controversial

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