DARKE COUNTY — On Monday, the Darke County Board of Commissioners held the first of two public hearings this month regarding the proposed enactment of a permissive license tax in the county.
About 20 people were on hand to ask questions and listen to Commissioners Mike Stegall and Mike Rhoades, as well as Darke County Engineer Jim Surber.
“For clarification, the commissioners have been approached numerous times for the last year or so about needing more moneys to fix roads and bridges,” said Rhoades.
The proposed $10 tax would be assessed to the owners of any motor-operated vehicle in Darke County — including automobiles, motorcycles, trailers and boats — which is required to be licensed. The amount charged would be in addition to existing license fees assessed by the State of Ohio.
The total amount collected cannot exceed $15 per vehicle registration. As well, amounts collected may vary based upon jurisdictions within the county that already collect a permissive tax.
Total anticipated revenue from the tax is estimated at more than $500,000 per year based on current vehicle registrations. Approximately $457,000 would go to the county, $33,000 to the City of Greenville, $38,000 divided among 20 incorporated villages, and $66,000 split between 20 townships.
If enacted, the tax will become effective beginning in January 2018. The money would be earmarked specifically for road and bridge construction projects and could not be used for other purposes.
The City of Greenville currently has a $10 license tax. Seven villages and 15 of the county’s 20 townships also have an existing $5 permissive tax. The maximum amount that county residents will be required to pay, depending on their location, is $15 per vehicle.
One member of the public in attendance asked how much of the tax money collected by the state would be kept by the state. At first, the commissioners could offer no definitive answer, but Darke County Business Administrator John Cook determined all money would return to the county and its municipalities, with no administrative fee collected by the state.
Another attendee asked if the tax would also apply to tractors and trailers operated by Amish residents on the county’s roads, which are not required to be licensed by the state.
“Don’t you think it’s time we started getting some money from the Amish?” he asked. “They’re running up and down the roads with these big tractors and trailers with all this equipment on it. They don’t pay no tax whatsoever.”
“If we tax them, we have to tax every tractor on the road,” responded Rhoades. “The state says ‘No.’”
Stegall added, “[A change] would have to come from the legislature. You’re talking about higher than us.”
Some questions from attendees were in regards to the Darke County Airport, and the nearby Chase Road project, and wondered if the county is putting too many resources into the airport.
“[The airport] has been an economic boom for us,” said Stegall, responding to criticism. “These companies want to be able to get in here…they employ people, all these companies employ people. The more they employ, the better off it’s going to be.”
Surber told the audience that the first two years of permissive tax money collected for Darke County’s use is already slated for the Chase Road project, which will revert from township to county ownership.
“The first two years of collection coming into the county would have to be used for the Chase Road reconstruction, while the villages and the townships receive their money for their own jurisdictions,” he said.
Highway Department Superintendent Shane Coby, noting the county’s many challenges in upgrading and maintaining roads and bridges, made a strong appeal in favor of the tax, saying, “It’s tough. I’m not trying to beg anybody for $10 to do that, but I, as a taxpayer and a person that oversees all of this highway, it’s a necessary fund.”
The second hearing will be held Wednesday, July 27 at 6 p.m. at the Darke County Administration Building at 520 South Broadway in Greenville. The hearings are open to all citizens or organizations desiring to speak on the matter.
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