End of 'wheel tax' could save drivers $50/year

(Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

(WMC) - Shelby County Trustee David Lenoir is calling for an end to the controversial wheel tax, which is costing you $50 per year on your vehicle registration bill.

The wheel tax began in 1987 to pay off $210 million in school construction. The tax was supposed to end in 2007.

Lenoir is the newest Shelby County leader to join the wheel tax debate.

"The perception was the wheel tax was temporary," he said. "So in my mind, on that basis alone, the wheel tax ought to be done away with."

Shelby County Commission originally passed the wheel tax as a $25 fee on your vehicle registration. The commission then doubled the tax in 2001.

Lenoir feels the tax hits the poor hardest.

"For some within our community, an inexpensive bottle of wine. For others, a single mom, someone trying to fill prescription drugs, $50 can be a lot of money," he explained.

Some drivers are under the impression the tax money would only be used for schools, but the original bond allowed it to also be used for debt, hospitals, housing, and roads.

Many drivers agree with Lenoir.

"Cut it out. That would make it cheaper for us, which is great," said Jessica Quinn.

The flip side is school systems already hurting for money would lose $30 million dollars per year.

Lenoir, who's collected more property taxes than any trustee before him, believes the county could recoup the money.

"Real estate is beginning to rebound. If the majority of our property taxes are based on real estate values, I believe the county would recoup that money over time," he said.

Lenoir would like to do away with the tax completely or phase it out a little at a time.

The county commission would have to vote on it.

WMC Action News 5's Kontji Anthony is still waiting to hear from the school system on this matter.

There is a wheel tax rebate for low-income senior citizens. Click here for more information.

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