KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — Those in the Amish community received notice at the end of July that the license fee for horse-drawn vehicles is increasing significantly beginning Sept. 2.
Kosciusko County Commissioners voted in early July after months of discussion by the Kosciusko County Council on increasing the wheel tax for most motorized vehicles, to increase the license fee. The commissioners, who determine license fees for horse-drawn vehicles in the county, voted for the fee increase from $30 annually to $100 per buggy. It was noted this ordinance has not been changed since July 2008 and would put the county in line with other counties.
Susan Engleberth, county assessor, noted during the last three years an average of 1,000 stickers have been sold each year. The funds received from this fee are placed in the county’s highway fund.
The reason behind the increase is the damage to the roads caused by horses.
Scott Tilden, county highway superintendent, said there are some roads where the ruts are 4-5 inches deep and go across 4 to 5 feet. Most of this damage is noticeable in the northwest corner of the county from CR 700N north to the Elkhart County line, and from CR 300W west to the Marshall County line. Crews were slated Friday, Aug. 2, to do what they have dubbed “trough repair.” He noted the previous fee didn’t cover the repair costs.
But what do members of this quiet group think and feel?
“It’s a drastic change, that’s my first thought,” said one member of the Amish community in Kosciusko County, who like others, did not want their names used. “Although I want to acknowledge horses do damage roads just as much as vehicles,” he continued. “It’s quite a bit of a drastic change in a short period of time … I’m not going to raise a fuss. I’d rather be easy going and quiet. I do appreciate what they (the county officials) do to the roads.”
However, another member of the community felt differently. “I guess it should be about the same as a vehicle with four wheels. There’s four wheels on a buggy,” he said, noting it isn’t a fair increase.
Another member of the Amish community, who is said to have an interest in history, stated there are approximately 50 church districts in the northeastern area of the county, each district having approximately 25 families and each family having at least two buggies.
“The plates are free. It’s the sticker that is $100. That’s quite a jump from $30 to $100,” he stated, but noted “there’s more horses on the road than there used to be and horses do work on the roads. They make that path just off center of the lane.” He also felt the jump was a little sudden. “I’m not going to dispute it. Paying taxes hurts. But I’m glad I’m somewhere where I can pay taxes and have fairly nice roads.”
He noted there are some counties that do not have as nice of roads as in Kosciusko County.
He also mentioned he believed there are several counties that have the $100 fee, but also have a larger Amish population. As an example he said the eastern part of Elkhart County into western LaGrange County, up to the Michigan line and a portion of Noble County, has 180 church districts.
“The horses make a groove in the road. They need (the money) to fix it. It will be a little more expensive, but it costs more to fix the roads,” said another member of the Amish community. He noted before the increase, those residing in Elkhart County did pay more than Kosciusko County. “If they let us drive the horses, I don’t have much of a problem.”