Sequatchie County, Tenn., voters will decide as soon as August whether they want a $20 wheel tax to help the county offset anticipated Affordable Care Act health costs estimated at $300,000 a year.
Sequatchie County Executive Keith Cartwright said the impact of the federal health insurance law won't be the worst-case-scenario of $600,000 if all county employees had to be insured, but it will be significant.
Cartwright said officials believe about 70 of the county's 120 employees will have to be insured. The county has an annual budget of about $32.2 million.
A $20 wheel tax would generate the amount needed from an estimated 15,000-17,000 or so eligible vehicles, officials said. Voters nixed referendums twice last year to increase the sales tax rate.
Sequatchie County commissioners passed the final reading of the wheel tax referendum 13-1 on May 20, with Chairman Tommy Johnson casting the lone "no" vote.
Johnson said figures he studied show a 12 cent property tax hike would generate the same money while having a slightly lesser average impact on residents.
He said he presented his analysis to constituents in his district and they responded 4-to-1 against the wheel tax.
Johnson said the timing also is wrong for a wheel tax vote because it will follow passage of the 2013-14 budget rather than precede it.
Administrator of Elections Linda Tate said the special election likely would happen in August and cost around $11,000.
Tate said the petition for the tax already has more than the required 355 signatures and appears to meet requirements for the election commission to review when it meets June 25.
Tate had one request of the election commission herself.
"I am putting in a request that it not be on same day as the Highway 27 Yard Sale," she said with a sigh.
The sale begins during the usual election week every August and runs right through routes many voters use to get to the polls.
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Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...