City Council votes to tax take-home vehicles owned by city

Published 10:17 pm Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Bainbridge City Council passed voted 5-1 on a policy Tuesday evening that will require city workers to pay a $1.50 commuting tax each way when taking a city vehicle home. Under the policy, city workers may be provided a take home vehicle if the employee is a law enforcement officer, on 24-hour call, traveling for city related reasons (e.g. training) or he/she has had a take-home vehicle approved by the city manager.

Councilwoman Roslyn Palmer provided the dissenting vote.

City employees that have take home cars will required to keep track of the number of days during the year that they use the car to commute from home to work and/or vise versa. This total will then be used to calculate the employees’ tax liability at the rate $1.50 per trip (home to work or work to home).

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Under the policy city employees that have take-home vehicles will be prohibited from using the vehicle for personal use other than that which falls within a reasonable distance from the route used during his/her commute.

“This is saying no more personal use,” Councilwoman Glennie Bench said. “Just commute.”

The main point of contention before the policy was passed was a clause that allowed vehicles to be taken home up to 30 miles from city hall. Council members Roslyn Palmer and Phil Long questioned the reasoning behind allowing the vehicles to be taken outside of Decatur County.

“You know thirty miles is outside the county,” Long said. “Is there someway we can limit that to [within the county].”

Palmer added, “I just don’t think you should leave Decatur County.”

The counter point was made by Councilwoman Bench as she pointed out that you cannot limit the hiring of candidates with specific licenses and skills to only those that live in the county.

“It depends why you hired that person,” Bench said. “If the person was hired to do a particular job and it was deemed that they need a car then are you going to require them to move? Are you not going to hire the most qualified person because they live in Whigham?”

Councilwoman Palmer proposed instead of allowing employees to take cars home outside the county limits, those employees could instead use the designated parking areas to switch cars.

“We’ve got four different places they can drive to and leave their vehicle,” Palmer said. “If you work at city hall, but you live somewhere else you can leave [your vehicle] at Public safety, Leisure Services, or Pier Street. They can leave their vehicle at the closest place. If they have an emergency call they can drive in and leave their vehicle.”

Councilwoman Bench again rebutted saying this would cause an unnecessary burden to employees that live outside of Decatur County.

Of the nine current employees the policy will effect, it was estimated that four of them live outside of county limits, but within the 30 mile approved radius. This includes the supervisor of the water treatment plant who lives in Seminole County.

“He has a very specialized license that no one else in the city has to operate that plant,” City manager Chris Hobby. “We need him on 24 hour call because he has a very specific skill set.”

Councilwoman Palmer suggested that it might be better to reimburse employees that live outside the county when they need to come in for emergencies instead of providing a take home vehicle.

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