FROM STAFF REPORTS
Mooresville town commissioners were divided Thursday in their support for a staff proposal to levy a $20 per vehicle fee on all vehicles registered in the town to help fund the town’s annual road paving and maintenance program.
Three commissioners — Barbara Whittington, Bobby Compton and Thurman Houston — expressed support for implementing the fee in a nonbinding poll during the board’s retreat. Mayor Miles Atkins, whose vote broke a 3-3 tie, also supported the approach to creating a new stream for paying for road improvements.
There are 40,094 vehicles currently registered in the town’s corporate limits. If the board ultimately approves the fee, the town would use the more than $801,000 generated by the fee to close the funding gap between state funding for local roads and the amount the town spends annually — currently about $1.58 million. The town currently uses money from the general fund to pay for the amount not covered by state funding.
State law allows municipalities to charge an annual fee of up to $30 per vehicle. The money must be used for transportation-related expenses.
Fifty-seven communities across the state charge an annual motor vehicle fee, ranging from $2 to $30. Eleven surrounding communities charge an average of $20.
The Town of Mooresville has about 160 miles of town-maintained streets.
The board did not take an official vote on the proposal. Instead commissioners completed an online poll.
The mayor made it clear that the poll was non-binding and was intended to give town staff direction as it heads into budget season for fiscal year 2021-2022.
“For several years, the residents of Mooresville have consistently indicated road maintenance as a high priority in their list of concerns,” Atkins said. “Staff was asking the Town Board to consider adopting options for funding-source planning for the next fiscal year budget. This was not a vote for an additional tax. It will allow it to be added into the potential budget for discussions over the course of the next four months.”
Commissioners Lisa Qualls, Gary West and Eddie Dingler said they did not favor levying the fee in the midst of a pandemic.
“We have a lot of people who are struggling,” Qualls said. “Twenty dollars to those who are struggling is a lot. … I’m very very concerned — and we should expect a lot of people to be upset.”
Compton countered that the fee was not unreasonable.
“I’m the poorest one in this room,” he said. “Twenty dollars is not a big deal. It’s twenty dollars. I don’t see what the problem is. I can swing twenty dollars.”