The director of an area school for children with developmental disabilities recently was recognized for helping to change transportation tax legislation.

Toni Wilson, Stepping Stone School executive director, was awarded the Arkansas Transit Association President’s Award for her “commitment and professional contribution” to the state’s public transportation industry.

Wilson was not expecting the award when she attended the ATA’s conference Oct. 3, she said.

“It was quite an honor and a huge surprise,” Wilson said. “You just do what you can, for whoever it might impact.”

Wilson was recognized because she was instrumental in bringing about a change in state legislation to ensure that transportation vehicles for organizations that provide services to people with developmental disabilities are exempt from the excise tax.

After the school received a transport vehicle earlier this year, a Stepping Stone staff member took the vehicle to be registered, Wilson said. In previous years, the school had been exempted from the excise tax, she said.

It turns out, the exemption was an oversight by the Department of Motor Vehicles that was only noticed this year.

“We don’t purchase a lot of vehicles, but the few times we have we were included in that exemption until recently, when it was discovered that we weren’t on the (excise tax exemption) list,” Wilson said. “We actually weren’t included in that exemption, and all along I thought that we were.”

It seems to be a common oversight statewide, Wilson said.

Wilson speculated that the oversight happens because organizations such as Stepping Stone do not purchase vehicles that often - most are acquired through state and federal grants - and because it is natural to assume they would be included.

When Wilson was made aware of the problem, she contacted the ATA and local and state legislators, she said.

“We’ve been a member and partner of the ATA for more than 30 years,” Wilson said. “They are in tune with all of the state regulations that affect our transportation department.”

An amendment to the Arkansas Special Excise Tax rules to include Stepping Stone and similar groups was passed in March during the 2017 legislative session.

“If it had been brought to our attention, other programs that provide similar services, it would eventually impact them,” Wilson said. “So we worked to get the law amended for all of the programs.”

Wilson also thanked the Crawford County DMV staff for their support throughout the process.