Sunday, February 17, 2019
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Van Buren Weighing Options After Wheel Tax Voted Down

The Van Buren County Commission will weigh its options after residents voted down a proposed wheel tax last week.

County Mayor Greg Wilson said money generated from the wheel tax would have covered new correctional officer positions at the county jail.

“The thing about that was, with the wheel tax, we were looking to offset the cost for the new positions in the jail, which is what we wanted to do along with other things,” Wilson said. “Litigation taxes were increased, and so what we were hoping to do was be able to manage that with those two funding sources.”

Citizens voted 513 to 427 against the wheel tax, which would have implemented a $10 tax on owners of motor vehicles excluding farm equipment, government vehicles, and motorcycles.

Wilson said the commission faces a difficult decision in deciding whether to increase current property tax rates in the future.

“We’re going to have to take a serious look at a property tax increase. Now, on top of that, we’ll be fine this year,” Wilson said, “but probably in the fiscal year 2021-2022, we’re going to have to look at either a property tax now… or look to the future and not have a knee-jerk reaction in the next couple years and taxes go up more than what they should.”

Wilson said increasing property taxes isn’t guaranteed and not ideal for the county but isn’t being thrown out as an option.

“We’ll probably look at something towards a property tax, I would assume,” Wilson said. “I’m not saying there will be, and I’m not saying there won’t be. It’s just that for a county our size and the limited resources we have in funding, that is the most immediate way to revenue that we’ll have to look at.”

Wilson estimates Thursday’s election cost approximately $17,000 to $18,000, but said official numbers haven’t been submitted at this time by the Van Buren County Election Commission.

Citizens petitioned against the wheel tax to force the election after commissioners voted to approve the tax last September. The county filed a suit Dec. 27 against the Election Commission to stop the election, but withdrew the motion in January.

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