License plate renewal fees may soon increase in Marshall County, as the county council members learned that legislation is being created that would require all Indiana counties to implement a wheel tax in order for the counties to get full funding from the state for road repair.
County Auditor Penny Lukenbill said the county has no say-so in the matter, and more than half of the 92 counties in Indiana already have a wheel tax – also known as a local option highway user tax – in place, and the amounts tend to vary from as little as $5 to as high as $40, depending on the vehicle weight and type. Each county has the power to set their own rate through the county council.
Lukenbill told the council that Marshall County would have to charge at least half of the maximum rate – $20 – in order to receive state funds, and the state funds that are at risk are vital to the county. Marshall County received nearly $2.5 million in motor vehicle highway account distributions from the state for fiscal year 2013, which came from federal and state gas taxes. If the council does not establish a wheel tax under the legislation proposed, that amount would be frozen, putting the county in a very bad situation.
On a positive note, however, if Marshall County proceeds with enacting a wheel tax, the county will be eligible to potentially receive some extra funding. The legislation would also distribute gas tax money to county highway departments and INDOT, while cities and towns in Indiana would also receive part of that money, which comes out to around $144 million a year.
The council did not make a decision as they await the outcome of the legislation.