Rutherford County is considering a wheel tax increase

Dec 04, 2019 at 01:26 pm by Michelle Willard

Death and taxes

The Rutherford County Commission is looking at new ways to raise funds because, say it with me, growth doesn't pay for itself.

To explore the different options, the commission formed the Select Infrastructure Committee, which came back with a few suggestions. Most of the options require a visit with our legislative delegation and a vote by the entire General Assembly.

There are only two ways for the county to raise funds, property tax and wheel tax.

"Anything else we do is going to require change, or request of change to the Private Acts, or change to the development tax and a conversation with our legislative delegation," Public Works & Planning Commission Chairman Mike Kusch said at its Wednesday meeting.

Kusch said a $10 increase to the wheel tax could produce around $2.4 million, which would be earmarked for infrastructure projects.

"Wheel tax is a true user tax," Kusch said, explaining it is targeted at people who use the roads to pay for improvements to roads and infrastructure.

Plus, if 1¢ of property tax equals approximately $1 million in revenue, then $10 in wheel tax is about 2.4¢ that doesn't have to be collected from homeowners.

Kusch is banking on the EPA waiving Tennessee's requirement for emissions testing. He thinks that drivers will be saving $11 for the testing that can then be re-appropriated for the wheel tax. This is a big wish considering it's a federal program tied to the Clean Air Act. That means the General Assembly can vote all it wants to end the requirement but Washington will decide whether we still have to get tested.

The SIC will give the wheel tax increase and other options at the next County Commission meeting, but all the other options, like the mineral severance tax, need to be passed by the General Assembly.

The wheel tax just needs to be approved at two consecutive meetings of the County Commission.

My bet is that the wheel tax will be going up soon.

Maybe the county will use the taxes to fund Ketron's pipe dream of converting our trash into "jet fuel" and "food for the indigent population."

The Murfreesboro Post reported that Ketron's presentation on solid waste included some odd ideas that add up to a half a billion dollar price tag, which he proposed would be paid for with taxes and by public-private partnerships.

The estimated more than $530.3 million cost includes "tipping fee costs, $2.6 million; loss of revenue from the landfill, $1 million; jet fuel conversion site, $450 million; composting, $36 million; and recycling, $35 million," The Post reported. But it doesn't include annual operating costs.

Ketron's grand plan would divert uneaten edible food, which accounts for 40 percent of landfill waste, to a "food rescue," along with recycling some materials into usable and hopefully marketable products. If fully implemented, only 10 percent of the waste currently being dumped at Mount Trashmore cannot be repurposed.


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