Article by W. Clay Crook-
The Henderson County Commission met on Tuesday evening, March 10, 2020 at 7:00 p.m., but it was the Budget Committee meeting at 6:00 p.m. that drew much of the interest.
The committee met in the jury room on the Circuit Court side of the Criminal Justice Center and the discussion mainly centered on the wheel tax discussions. The recommendation from the committee to the full commission was to table the issue for another month in order to give some of the commissioners time to research. That measure was also passed by the commission during the later meeting.
Committee Chairman, Aaron Wood, originally proposed that the $5.00 wheel tax for solid waste be dropped and to move forward with the $40.00 general revenue wheel tax.
Wood said that the City of Lexington had some concerns over the legality of a wheel tax for solid waste, and in the spirit of cooperation felt that there were other ways to address the funding. The County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) bulletin on solid waste management, based on the Tennessee Code Annotated, outlines six specific ways that counties can fund their solid waste program:
• Tipping Fees
• Host Fees
• General Surcharges
• Disposal Fees
• Property Tax
• Service Charges
A wheel tax is not mentioned as a method to fund solid waste.
Tennessee Adjutant General’s Opinion No. 99-137, from 1999, where Morristown residents were being confronted by a possible wheel tax by Hamblen County, also sided with the city residents that a wheel tax was not a viable funding method.
The county does have an Adjutant’s General opinion that is felt to support legality. In material submitted by Henderson County Attorney Lena Beal, the AG opinion #93-49, in reference to Benton County and Camden, TN, says, “It is the opinion of this Office that the operation of solid waste convenience centers available to all citizens of Benton County is a service distinct from the residential solid waste collection and disposal service presently provided by the cities of Camden and Big Sandy.”
Will there need to be solid waste tax districts similar to what has been done with fire tax districts? With the opening of the new Lexington solid waste transfer station, it is a question that may need to be explored.
T.C.A 5-19-108 is referred to in the CTAS bulletin, which says “A county may levy a general county-wide property tax to pay for waste collection if all persons in the county are to be equally served, but such a county-wide levy shall be unlawful if any city, town or special district in any city or town, that, through its own forces or by contract, provides such services within…
For the complete story, see the March 18th edition of The Lexington Progress.