Commissioners to consider Shelby County wheel tax hike

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — You could be paying more to get behind the wheel in Shelby County, as County Commissioners get ready for a vote Monday that could increase the county's wheel tax.

It's no secret that the Memphis Area Transit Authority needs money — lots of it — for updates and improvements. The question now becomes, where does the money come from to make the changes?

"There are some serious issues with public transportation," Commissioner Mark Billingsley said.

A resolution presented by commissioners Tami Sawyer, Willie Brooks and Van Turner proposes adding $20 to the county's wheel tax.

That's money you pay to drive on county roads.

Right now it costs you $50 a year, so most people would pay $70 with the increased tax.

Commissioner Willie Brooks said the increase comes out to an extra $1.67 a month, generating about $9 million for the Memphis Area Transit Authority.

"We can't sit here and talk about what hasn't happened if we have not presented a proposal to address the issue," Brooks said.

But not everyone believes this plan is a good one.

Commissioner Amber Mills says not everyone has been brought to the table to thoroughly talk about it.

The wheel tax resolution comes after Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris issued his own proposal for those in the county who register their third vehicle to pay $145. That money would go toward MATA's crumbling infrastructure, updating routes.

But that's not the issue commissioners will be voting on Monday.

We asked people in the community what they think.

Marty Pettigrew says he's actually still in favor of the $145 dollar plan.

"I think Mayor Harris has a good proposal to tax the third vehicle," Pettigrew said.

Another man said he needs to do more research on the issue, but no matter what, good public transportation is crucial.

"For the demographic we have here in Memphis, most definitely," he said.

At Monday's meeting there needs to be a supermajority vote, meaning nine commissioners have to sign off on the proposal, not just at this coming meeting but also at the next one.

Advocates for the resolution as well as several commissioners know that will be difficult.

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