The Henry County Council passed a first vote Wednesday to increase the excise and wheel tax ordinances. There was a great amount of discussion involved because in some cases, the taxes would be doubled.
The current excise tax is $25 for passenger vehicles and light trucks. The proposed ordinance will increase that to $40. The wheel tax applies to heavier trucks, trailers and recreational vehicles (RVs). That tax could go up to $80 in some instances.
Council member Clay Morgan explained that the tax increases are being proposed so that Henry County can take advantage of another matching fund program from the state.
The proposed ordinances require the council to reevaluate the tax rates if the state program ends.
"Basically, we're in a situation where we are being bribed by the state government with our own money. We have the opportunity to receive $1 million extra to fix the county roads," Morgan said.
Council member Steve Dugger said the tax will especially impact his family business, but he supported the increase. Dugger said it will be a good thing for the county.
"Right now, it costs $903,000 a year to cover Henry County and New Castle roads. If we go ahead and approve this tax, next year we'll have around $2,615,000 after the state matches our money to help with new roads," Dugger said.
Mike Thalls, another member of the council, added that this tax was not something that the council wanted to do, but was necessary if the county wanted to take advantage of the state giving them an extra million dollars. It's not a position the council enjoys being in, but it's the only way to fix "the terribly, terrible roads," Thalls said.
"A lot of people aren't going to like this, but you pay us to do what's best for this country," Thalls added.
The ordinance increases passed 5-1, with council member Harold Griffin voting against. Griffin said the majority of his constituents don't want the increase because they already feel like they are being taxed to death.
"As great as it might be, I can't support it. I'm sorry," Griffin said.
The council will meet at 6 p.m. Monday for a second vote on the tax ordinances because they weren't approved unanimously. If approved, the tax increases will take effect Jan. 1, 2017. The meeting will take place on the second floor of the Henry County Courthouse, 101 S. Main St., New Castle.