Vehicle tax hike may lead to SR 53 widening

Seneca County Commissioner Fred Zoeller has proposed enacting a $5 tax on vehicle registrations. Zoeller suggests using revenue from the fee to attract state money to widen and improve SR 53 – perhaps between US 20 in Fremont and US 23 in Upper Sandusky.

The other two commissioners were cool to the idea. The tax would see the county jump from having the second-lowest permissive tax in the area to the third-highest.

The board has the authority to enact the tax, which then could be subject to referendum. State law allows counties, townships and municipalities to enact multiple $5 fees, but caps the total at $20 in one county.

That’s right. Cities, villages and townships can enact a $5-per-vehicle registration fee. Most in Seneca County have. Residents now pay a $5 registration fee in Attica, Bettsville, Bloomville, Green Springs and Tiffin, and the townships of Adams, Bloom, Clinton, Hopewell, Liberty, Reed, Scipio, Seneca, Thompson and Venice.

The tax is $10 in Fostoria.

Civic leaders long have pined for a wider, safer, super two-lane highway (or, better yet, a four-lane version) between US 224 and US 23. With the sale of bonds to be financed by Ohio Turnpike tolls, the state finally may have funds available for such a project.

The permissive tax could be a way to secure matching funds to pry those funds from the state. What is needed now are more details, including a commitment from the Ohio Department of Transportation. Cooperation of officials in Wyandot and Sandusky counties could improve the likelihood of ODOT participation.

Zoeller’s proposal Tuesday may get that ball rolling. If officials from neighboring counties and the state help advance the ball, that could convince county residents to permit the permissive tax increase.