County to mull terminating wheel tax

The Claiborne Commission will be going into its regular monthly meeting next week with a potential battle on its collective hands. Up for vote is a resolution that, if adopted, will effectively terminate the $25 wheel tax currently levied on every vehicle that is registered inside the county.

There is an assumption that the tax was created solely to pay off a $5 million loan taken out by a previous County Road Department superintendent. However, a portion of the original wheel tax resolution mandates specifics in dividing the tax revenues to pay for asphalting and tar/chip resurfacing.

Ongoing public dissatisfaction with the speed in which roads are being repaired has prompted many lively debates between residents and current road superintendent Ronnie Pittman.

Adding to the milieu is the torrential rainfall during much of the year that wreaked havoc on county roadways, leaving many residents stranded with rising flood waters.

Many of these residents say they are hard pressed to see just where all the wheel tax revenues are going.

Pittman says he is working a methodical plan to allow an orderly repair to all 1,070 miles of county roads, concentrating on the worst roads via a list generated from calls made by residents.

By state law, Pittman is required to attend to all primary and secondary roads (like those located near churches and schools) before concentrating whatever funds are left over to the lower traffic-volume roadways.

The commissioners will need to decide whether to uphold an apparent oral “promise” to do away with the wheel tax once the loan was paid off.

The resolution touches on increases in the gas tax realized for the last year. The document states that local funding came to $402,408.55, and that $2,365,519.84 in gas tax revenue amounted to three times the amount – or, $703,257.65 – generated through the wheel tax.

The document states that Pittman has not submitted to the commission quarterly reports, as initially promised. The resolution also cites numerous complaints by residents that roads on the urgent list are not being addressed.

If adopted, the wheel tax will be removed on Dec. 31, to allow equal taxing of every registered vehicle since its effective date in January of 2016.

Two-thirds of the 21 commissioners must vote in favor of the resolution for passage. The document must be voted on during two consecutive regularly scheduled meetings.

The next Claiborne Commission meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 18, inside the large courtroom of the Claiborne Courthouse. The public is encouraged to attend these monthly meetings.