Are the voters ready for another wheel tax? We’re going to referendum

Published 3:52 pm Thursday, November 23, 2023

Claiborne voters will have the opportunity to go to the polls come March 2024 to vote their conscience during a called election at the county’s expense. The Claiborne Commission voted 11 to 9 on Nov. 20 in favor of sending the decision to create yet another wheel tax via referendum vote. Commissioner Stacy Crawford was absent from the 21-member board.

Commissioner Whitt Shuford, who sponsored Resolution 2023-120, spoke of the proposal to implement a $71 wheel tax per vehicle, per year.

“I’m sure I’m not the only one sitting at this table that had somebody come to them and say that they would prefer a wheel tax over a property tax because it is a fair tax. I tried several times to get this board to approve that. However, due to the fact that there was going to have to be a special called election and an additional fee to the county, that was shot down,” said Shuford.

He said that, if the resolution is adopted, there would be no need for a petition drive since the county would be the one directing the special election.

If the referendum makes the cut in March, funds from the new wheel tax would go to replace 30 cents of the current property tax rate, bringing the rate from its current $2.30 back down to $2.00 per $100 of assessed value – where it stood last fiscal year.

Shuford said negotiations would automatically begin at the $2.00 tax rate when the budget committee begins its meetings next spring.

It is unclear, at this time, just when the new wheel tax would officially begin.

If the referendum passes, Shuford said the wheel tax would likely go into effect in July 2023 or as soon as the votes are tallied. The county clerk could then submit paperwork to change the property tax rates at the state level.

County Attorney James Estep III countered the timeline, reading from a statute pertaining to the issue.

“’…such collections shall commence on the first period of the month following the month this resolution is approved in a referendum.’ It would be scheduled to try to start in April ….,” said Estep, adding collections could be as early as 60 to possibly 90 days post-referendum passage.

Already in place is a $50 per vehicle wheel tax. Passage of the referendum would bump the annual car tags to a total of $150 for each vehicle registered inside the county, when the yearly registration fee of $29 is included.

Those voting in favor of the $71 property wheel tax referendum were Commissioners Shuford, Zachary Bunch, Dennis Cook, Nathan Epperson, Gary Poore, Mike Campbell, Tim Shrout, Anthony Rowe, Zach Mullins, Quintin Rogers and Dustin Wilson.

Those who voted against the wheel tax were Commissioners Haley Barker, Mitchell Cosby, Rosemary Barnett, Carolyn Brooks, Steve Mason, Steve Brogan, Eric Jones, Sherry McCreary and David Mundy.