My column last week about the wheel tax contained an inaccuracy.

I suggested that horse-drawn buggies were not paying fees.

Fact is, horse-drawn buggies in Kosciusko County do have to buy a license plate from the county.

The cost is $30 and that was put in place in 2008, up from $25 in 2004.

But it seems now, as part of the larger debate over how to fund road repairs, that may be increasing.

The county commissioners are studying the matter. They’re looking into what other surrounding counties charge for buggy plates.

Elkhart County, for example, charges $50 for a buggy plate. The plate for trailers being towed behind costs $17.

In 2016, Elkhart County collected $184,000 in buggy plate fees and used it all for road repairs. Officials there are considering raising the fee.

Here’s an excerpt from a story in the LaGrange Standard and News from August 2017.

LaGrange County Commissioners passed an ordinance Monday morning that will raise the annual fee for buggy license plates to $100, effective next year. The cost for trailer plates will increase to $30 each.

Noting that the last increase in LaGrange County for these plates was in 2004, Commission President Larry Miller said that plate costs in some other counties are higher than those to be collected locally. “Adams County charges $120 and Davies County $160,” he said.

These buggy plate fees appear to be all over the map.

A common theme in all these counties is that horses’ metal shoes and metal-clad buggy wheels do cause significant wear and tear on roads.

Since most road repair funds come from gas taxes, wheel taxes and motor vehicle licensing fees, counties feel obligated to level the playing field a bit by requiring license plates for buggies.

Seems fair.

According to Kosciusko County Council President Sue Ann Mitchell, the county collected $29,430 in buggy plate fees – 978 plates (or stickers) at $30 each in 2018.

But how does that compare with the amount of wear and tear the buggies cause?

County Highway Superintendent Scott Tilden said it’s mainly metal horseshoes that do the most damage, “especially where there are a lot of them on the same road.” He said it’s not uncommon to see “3- or 4-inch ruts, 3 or 4 feet across the road.”

I asked him if he could estimate how much it costs the county to repair the damage each year.

“It’s a lot more than we take in,” he said, referring to Mitchell’s $29K in revenue. “It’s at least a couple times that.”

Tilden says the county has 1,171 miles of roads.

Of those, 1,065 are hard surfaced with mainly asphalt – either chip seal, cold mix or hot mix.

The estimated cost for paving materials only – no labor – per mile is:

Chip seal – $12,000.

Cold mix – $55,000.

Hot mix – $90-110,000.

These numbers are based on a road 20 feet wide paved 21⁄2  inches deep.

It’s expensive.

This is why the county is looking into finding equitable ways to generate funds to keep the roads in shape.

As for the buggy plates, I think $160 sounds like too much.

But at the same time, I think the $30 the county is charging seems like too little.

Especially when you consider that the wheel tax right now for a small cargo or boat trailer is $40. Frankly, the wear and tear caused by those trailers is negligible compared to a horse and buggy.

It will be interesting to see where the county commissioners end up with regard to a new fee for buggy plates.