WARSAW — The Kosciusko County Council held a public hearing to entertain discussion on the county’s wheel tax and on several proposed changes. There were approximately 10 residents who chimed in on the road maintenance fundraiser that is charged at the time of annual license plate registration.
“I don’t care for the injustice in this county with this wheel tax,” said Ron Anglin, who said the Amish community pays less to use the roads than its neighbors using traditional vehicles.
“They are growing, they are spreading out and they’re tearing our roads up,” he said, suggesting the county charge a tax for every horseshoe.
Anglin’s comments were mirrored by Mark Nuell, who said “I would like to know what the county’s position is on the Amish.”
Nuell said he knows of Amish construction business owners who use tractors to haul construction trailers and, according to him, pay less in wheel tax or excise tax. “These people are kind of pushing right to the line because they’re using our public roads to conduct business.” Nuell told the council he wanted to see a more level playing field.
According to an information sheet issued by the council prior to the hearing, horse-drawn buggies cannot be charged a wheel tax or an excise tax. Owners of horse-drawn buggies pay $35 for buggy plates, which generates more than $29,000 annually for the county.
Another sore spot for some residents was the rate charged to motorcycles.
“The wheel tax should be based on who is doing the most damage,” said Indiana Rep. David Wolkins. Johnny Butler told the council that motorcycles are used for a smaller portion of the year and, when it comes to rubber meeting the road, provide a smaller footprint on the pavement. Butler also added that with the tax being earmarked for road maintenance, he thought there was room for improvement in that area.
The Wheel and Excise Tax generated $2,681,572.24 in revenue in 2018, which was divided among 14 county municipalities and the county’s highway department. The committee responsible for reviewing the tax has recommended that the tax for trucks of 7,000 pounds to 11,000 pounds, along with automobiles, pay $35, up from the previous tax of $25. The council is considering the idea of lowering the tax for motorcycles, but the overall proposal will be further discussed and voted on at a later date. For semi trucks and semi trailers, the price will rise from $40 to $60 and the council is mulling the idea of lowering the tax on trailers smaller than 7,000 pounds be lowered from $40 to $25. Wolkins said after the hearing he expected that move to actually generate more revenue since he thinks many owners of small trailers just take their chances and prefer to pay a fine than the $40 rate.