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Finance committee proposes wheel tax

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 4/4/23

The Bedford County Financial Committee passed a motion Tuesday that would allow for more funding to go towards putting school resource officers in all schools in the city and county.

The motion, …

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Finance committee proposes wheel tax


The Bedford County Financial Committee passed a motion Tuesday that would allow for more funding to go towards putting school resource officers in all schools in the city and county.

The motion, which was proposed by Commissioner Tony Smith and seconded by Commissioner Linda Yockey, would request state representatives to introduce a local Private Act that would allow the county to levy a motor vehicle tax in Bedford.

It will be presented before the Board of Commissioners on April 11.

Smith cited the recent school shooting in Denver, Colo., which wounded two administrators, as well as the Covenant School shooting in Nashville, which killed six people. SROs had been voted out of the budget of the Denver School System “because they weren’t needed,” Smith said.

“We need our administrators teaching education. We don’t need them doing law enforcement work,” Smith said. Getting officers into schools is especially important as Bedford County’s growth and needs increase every week, according to Smith.

The school system needs nine more SROs, which is going to take a “bundle of money” amid the county’s other needs, Smith explained.

“Right now, we don’t have money to care for our roads due to the rate of price increases. We don’t have money to buy safety equipment. We don’t have money to buy firetrucks. What the devil are we going to do with our juvenile center?” said Smith.

According to the Tennessee Code Annotated (T.C.A. § 5-8-102), counties may levy a privilege tax on motor vehicles, commonly called a wheel tax. 

This tax may be levied by the passage of a resolution by a two-thirds vote of the county legislative body at two consecutive regular county legislative body meetings; by the passage of a resolution by the county legislative body by a regular majority with approval by referendum provided for in the resolution; or by a “private act.”

The distribution of these tax revenues may be for any county purpose specified in the private act or resolution levying the tax.

Commissioner Yockey explained, “At least with this mechanism, for the commission to hurry up and make a decision, we can get the SROs in, maybe do some of these other projects behind us and not put the entire and complete 100% burden on the tax payer allow. Wheel tax, if it comes to attrition and we can agree, everybody pays their part.”

For example, if you drive by a house and there are eight vehicles out front, “at least they’re helping,” said Yockey.

As an example, from the County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS), Cannon County had a similar resolution which put a $10 wheel tax “for each such motor-driven vehicle during each registration year.”

Yockey also reminded the committee of another resolution that was brought up before the committee last July that proposed to use funds from the sale of the EMA building (1304 Railroad Ave) to hire five SROs in the inner-city elementary schools for 12 months. The total cost to hire these five SROs would have been $378,000 with each receiving about $75,000 (depending on the level of experience of the SRO), according to Superintendent Tammy Garrett.

“That was denied, and that’s fine,” said Yockey.

However, “If you can’t see what’s coming down the road — 60 miles from here this is happening…” she said.

Yockey retired from the Bedford County School System after having served a long tenure at Cascade High School as well as serving as a science teacher and graduation coach at Shelbyville Central High School. 

“The presence of an SRO in those schools makes all the difference in the world,” said Yockey. “We’re sitting with half of our schools with no SRO security just like [March 27’s] incident.”

There are seven schools in Bedford, most of which are the elementary schools, that do not have an SRO.

Smith added, “I don’t see how any public servant can stand, face himself in the mirror…if something happens in one of our schools and we voted no to put SROs in there. How are you going to live with yourself?”

“So, the only thing we have left to do is to defend ourselves,” said Yockey.