DAYTON, Tenn. — Rhea County commissioners will adopt a wheel tax and a solid waste fee rather than a property tax increase if a plan proposed by the commission's budget committee is approved.
Budget committee members this week trimmed a budget shortfall to about $1.2 million from an earlier estimated $1.5 million, but agreed they did not want to raise property taxes.
"We voted 4-1 to take a plan to the full commission to balance the budget with money from our fund balance, impose a $26 wheel tax that will go to restore the fund balance, and a $12 user fee for solid waste centers," budget committee Chairman Ron Masterson said. He said the solid waste fee would help avoid "a $300,000 deficit in the solid waste budget."
Commission Chairman Jim Reed voted against the plan, saying, "I don't think we have looked at the whole situation. There's a lot more to what we have to decide than just a balanced budget.
"A $26 wheel tax and a $12 fee for solid waste? Have we truly planned for the future or are we just trying to do something for today? I think we need to look at what the real need is and how to approach the situation."
Masterson said that "we have a lot of people from a lot of other counties coming into Rhea County using our convenience centers and not paying property tax. We felt $1 per month for a user fee is more than fair for them to use our centers."
But the fee also would apply to county residents, he said.
Without this plan, or without a property tax increase, the county's general fund balance would drop to between $300,000 and $500,000, and most other funds nearly would be depleted, Masterson said.
"We talked about cutting services and personnel," he said. "We would need to cut 20 to 30 people, and that's not viable. If we did we'd shut the county down."
Reed pointed out that "any way you look at it, the revenue is not there for today's economy. In the past two years employee insurance has increased $200,000. Fuel is up about $1.75 per gallon, but our tax revenue has not increased. You start adding all these things up, and you have to ask if a $26 wheel tax and $12 solid waste fee will solve our problems. I'm more in favor of a wheel tax than a property tax increase, but I don't know if we're solving our problems."
Tom is the director of public information at Bryan College and has been in the Dayton community for 30 years.