The ordinance, which was passed in May of 2012, reads because of Clay County experiencing a severe shortfall in local road and street distributions needed to maintain and improve the streets and roads, beginning Jan. 1, 2013, all passenger vehicles, motorcycles and trucks with a gross weight under 11,000 pounds, registered in Clay County, are now subject to an excise surtax of $25 to be paid at time of registration.
Beginning the same time, buses, recreational vehicles, semi-trailers, tractors, trailers 11,001 pounds or more and trucks over 11,000 pounds, registered in Clay County, are now subject to an annual wheel tax of $40 to be paid at registration.
Also, trailers 12,000 pounds or less, registered in Clay County, are subject to a wheel tax of $20 to be paid at time of registration. The ordinance exempts the following vehicles from the wheel tax:
* Vehicles owned by the State of Indiana,
* Vehicles owned by a state agency of the State of Indiana,
* Vehicles owned by a political sub-division of the State of Indiana,
* Buses owned and operated by religious or non-profit youth organization, and used to haul persons to religious services or for the benefit of their members, and
* School buses and other vehicles owned and operated by the Clay Community School Corporation.
The ordinance reads, "All of the excise surtax and wheel tax funds collected on motor vehicles registered in Clay County shall be deposited in a separate fund by the Clay County treasurer, and titled, 'Clay County Wheel Tax Fund.' ... The funds distributed shall be used only to construct, reconstruct, repair or maintain streets and roads under the jurisdiction of the respective county, city and towns."
Clay County Council President Mike McCullough said he thought the public should know the revenue from the taxes would come directly from the Department of Motor Vehicles to the county's treasurer every month. Only 15 cents is kept for the state. He mentioned an average person doesn't pay both the surtax and wheel tax, but instead they pay based on the vehicles they register. He also said the public should understand the wheel tax doesn't mean residents pay per wheel, but rather it is a fixed cost.
Being the first year to receive funds from the taxes, McCullough said it was hard to say exactly when the county would have enough money to do major work on the roads.
"This being the first year, it's hard to say. Not everybody buys their license plate in the same month," McCullough said. "The first year, the funds will be a little bit limited because it will be trickling in. But I think by the end of the summer there will be enough money there to start doing some work with the funds."
By the second year, McCullough said there would be "more of a flow."
"People need to understand this is not an overnight fix by any means," he said. "It will take a few years before we start seeing the effects of this tax."
McCullough said the county needs the state to increase their local funding.
"That would be a big help, if we could get additional money back from the state, but passing these taxes was the only option we had to get some improvements," he said.
Clay County Commissioner Paul Sinders said at a previous meeting he had found, after researching, the county could receive revenue of $678,139 within the first year. The commissioners would split the money so that each of the districts would receive $226,000. Each commissioner will be able to improve 22-23 miles of roads in their district each year, according to Sinders.
"The county residents want to see road improvements," McCullough said. "The taxes are important because we want to attract new industry and businesses. When people come from out of state, they look at the quality of the infrastructure. Unless we did something, the roads were only going to get worse and worse."