Zoeller proposes $5 vehicle tax

Commissioner Fred Zoeller proposed the county establish a $5 registered vehicle permissive tax to raise funds for a road improvement plan, during Tuesday morning’s commissioners meeting.

Zoeller said the county could raise about $300,000 per year if it were to charge an additional $5 per vehicle. He said this money would be necessary to match a possible grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation to make SR 53 a super-two lane highway.

Gov. John Kasich signed a bill Monday that would make $1.5 billion available for highway repairs. The bill requires that 90 percent of the money be spent on projects within 75 miles of the turnpike.

“I think this is a necessary evil that we have to do to position the county 25 years from now,” Zoeller said. “We need to make some improvements in the roads. If we go to ODOT, unless we come there with some money, we can’t ever really get any help.”

He said the permissive tax proposal would require a unanimous vote from commissioners.

The money raised from the permissive tax would have to be earmarked “strictly for road improvements that would create economic development,” Zoeller said.

Commissioner Holly Stacy said, initially, she is “not in favor of a new fee of this kind.”

She said small businesses with several vehicles could be negatively impacted by this tax.

Commissioner Jeff Wagner said while Zoeller makes good points about the tax, Wagner is “pretty reluctant to add another fee of any kind.”

Zoeller said there are talks of forming a committee with Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot county commissioners to solicit ODOT to make SR 53 a super-two lane highway.

“I think that’s one of the smartest things I’ve seen or heard come out of this office,” county resident Tom Breidenbach said. “I hate to pay extra fees, but I think it’s worth it.”

Breidenbach said SR 53 is a “terrible road” and it needs a lot of repairs.

County resident Loretta Miller said $5 for the future is a “minor investment.”

According to County Commissioners Association of Ohio, Seneca County averaged $4.34 in permissive taxes per registered vehicle in 2010, which was the most recent data available.

That is the second lowest in the surrounding counties, behind Wyandot County, which averages $2.48. The highest averages in the area are in Wood County, $13.55, and Ottawa, $11.61.

No decision has been made on the issue, and the commissioners will wait to get public input.

Also during the meeting, commissioners approved County Engineer Mark Zimmerman’s request to hire a part-time employee for the tax map department.

Zimmerman said the department used to have one full-time employee and one part-time worker, but since 2009 it has just operated with the one full-timer.

“As far as being tight and frugal with money, I’m as tight as it gets,” he said. “I would not be here asking if it was not a real need.”

He said if the tax map department is closed due to the employee being sick or on vacation, people would not be able to transfer real estate.

Zimmerman said the part-time employee, who would work about 25 hours a week, would cost the county about $15,000-$20,000.

County Auditor Julie Adkins voiced her support for allowing Zimmerman to hire a new employee.

In other business, Stacy said Tia Rice, director of the Soil and Water District, wants to be involved with Sunoco about pipeline easements.

Rice said the Soil and Water District wants to mark all the drainage laterals, so if there are problems in the future, everyone will know whether the damage was caused by the pipeline or from somewhere else.

In new business, the board approved:

Bill vouchers.

An appropriation adjustment of $16,253.40 to be made to the Homeland Security Fund.

A supplemental appropriation of $3,000 for the Juvenile Court Community Services Fund.

A supplemental appropriation of $952 for the General Fund.

A supplemental appropriation of $12,102.69 for the Seneca County Ditch Maintenance Fund for 2013.

A fund transfer of $94,000 to be made to the Energy Improvement Fund.

A supplemental appropriation of $94,000 for the General Fund for 2013.

A resolution authorizing the agreement with Seneca Soil and Water Conservation District, in conjunction with the county engineer, to do the plans of soil resources for control and prevention of soil erosion, work for improvement of flood prevention, conservation development utilization and dispose of water and preparation of plans of removal and obstructions from Wolf Creek.