Budget Vote Postponed,
Insurance Vote Postponed

With a standing room only crowd, the Loudon County Commission postponed votes on the two main issues that most of the people were there to hear.

Hot topic number one was Commissioner Nancy Marcus' recommendation to increase the employee's share of the health insurance costs. Commissioners put off any discussion of the topic till the June 16th work shop meeting.

Hot topic number two was the adoption of the 2008-2009 county budget which would have ended the budget fight between the school board and the commission. Commission has refused to give the board their four million plus budget request instead offering them a little more than a million new dollars. Commissioners postponed the budget vote till August at which time it is expected the school board will have a better idea of the state revenues which could have an impact on the county's funding.

Hot topic number three was the $50 wheel tax which commissioners voted unanimously to place on the August ballot. If the wheel tax passes, all of the revenues from the tax would be earmarked for the schools.

More details when available. 

Loudon considers $50 wheel tax

Hugh G. Willett, knoxnews.com

LOUDON - The Loudon County Commission voted unanimously Monday night to put a $50 wheel tax initiative on the August ballot.

Money generated by the wheel tax would be totally devoted to the school debt fund, said Commissioner Robert Franke.

Based on the number of registered vehicles in the county, the wheel tax could raise more than $2 million per year for school improvements, Franke said.

That amount would be sufficient to support a bond program in the range of $20 million, enough to get the long-delayed school building program off the ground, he said.

Opponents of the wheel tax, some who have taken to calling it the "Tellico Village Relief Act," claim that the wheel tax gives a break to county residents living in expensive homes and shifts the burden unfairly to lower-income residents.

"It's like Robin Hood in reverse," said Loudon resident Richard Truitt.

Truitt urged the commission to fund school improvements through a property tax increase that would generate most of its revenue from those who live in expensive homes.

Even residents who supported the wheel tax said they were concerned that the commission would pass a tax to fund a building program that has not been approved.

Wendy Baustian, president of the Loudon Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization, said the commission passed an Adequate Facilities Tax more than a year ago, but the county has yet to put any of the money generated by the tax toward the building program.

Director of Schools Edward Headlee proposed that the wording of the wheel tax initiative be such that voters could either approve the $50 wheel tax or automatically have to agree to a property tax increase sufficient to generate the same amount.

The wording should be similar to what Knox County used in its wheel tax proposal, he said.

"You're saying we should word it so that the voters have no choice?" Commissioner Earlena Maples asked.

Election Commissioner Dana Zehner, who was in the audience, spoke up and told commission regardless of what happened in Knox County, such a move would be illegal under the Loudon County charter.

"It has to be a 'for or against' vote," Zehner said.

After several minutes of debate the commission agreed to leave the wording of the wheel tax proposal such that voters can vote it up or down without agreeing to a property tax increase.

The commission, which was also expected to vote on a proposed 8-cent property tax increase, decided to put off discussing the proposal until they received the 2008-2009 budget from the school department.