Some residents support $50 wheel tax, with guarantee

6 News Anchor/Reporter

LOUDON (WATE) -- Drivers in Loudon County could be paying the highest wheel tax in East Tennessee if voters pass a referendum in August. But some voters want a guarantee it will help fund education.

County commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to put a $50 wheel tax referendum on the ballot.

Voters will decide if they want to pay the $50 tax each year on each car, in addition to the $24 registration fee for cars.

Despite the cost of everything from gas to food going up, some Loudon County residents tell 6 News Tuesday they're still willing to pay more to help their schools.

"I'm very concerned about the condition of the schools," says one county resident, Glenn Nichols.

"I think we are known for being the land of low taxes and I would rather we'd be known as the land for excellent education," says another resident, Holly Pate.

But not all county residents believe paying a new $50 wheel tax is the best way to fund education.

The money is supposed to go to schools in need, such as Fort Loudon Middle School where administrators had to convert locker rooms into classrooms due to overcrowding.

The problem is, voters aren't convinced the money will go to the schools.

"We've had past experiences where money was set aside from taxes for education and later on, the county commission took some of the money back," Pate explains.

The extra $2 million plus would go toward:

School building plans, such as expanding Loudon Elementary, where student overflow is in trailers
Building a new Fort Loudon Middle School, North Middle School and Greenback School Residents say they'll vote yes if they get a guarantee the money will be properly allocated.

"I would be concerned that they take the money and do something else with it," Nichols says. "I would like to see something in writing that would be published for the general public."

The wheel tax is being criticized for its effects on people who are already struggling financially.

Another option commissioners are considering is raising the property tax by eight cents.