Unicoi County says no to wheel tax; town approves liquor stores

Brad Hicks • Nov 6, 2012 at 10:50 PM

ERWIN — The referendum for a countywide wheel tax was once again on the ballot for Unicoi County voters. And, as was the case in the past, the measure was soundly defeated by voters.

The wheel tax referendum received 1,634 votes, for 23.59 percent, in its favor compared to 5,294 votes, or 76.41 percent, for its rejection, according to unofficial totals.

In early September, after weeks of discussion on the matter in planning sessions and finance committee meetings, the Unicoi County Commission approved a resolution to place the $25 wheel tax referendum on the November general election ballot, leaving it up to county voters to decide if they would favor its implementation.

Commissioner Loren Thomas, who initiated the discussion of the possibility of a countywide wheel tax during the county commission’s finance committee meetings leading up to the setting of the county’s 2012-13 budget, previously said a $25 wheel tax on 90 percent of the slightly more than 20,000 vehicles registered in the county last year would generate more than $400,000, which would offset next year’s property tax rate by around 15 cents. Thomas also said the wheel tax would alleviate some of the tax burden placed upon the county’s property owners. However, County Commission Chair Mickey Hatcher previously said he would not favor what he called a “regressive tax” and said he feels the wheel tax would result in the county’s poorer residents being taxed at a higher rate.

Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch said Tuesday’s results concerning the wheel tax come as no surprise.

“It kind of sends the message for the future to maybe stay away from that as an option,” he said.

Voters in the Town of Unicoi also had the opportunity to vote on whether they would favor a referendum to allow for the retail sales of wine and liquor within the town’s limits. This referendum was passed, with 845 in its favor compared to 695 against it.

A petition to have the referendum placed on the ballot was started earlier this year by Unicoi resident Charles Lynch. He previously said allowing package stores to locate in the town would create jobs and provide another source of sales tax revenue.

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