Wisconsin officials consider adopting wheel tax

  • Associated Press
  • August 18, 2014 - 11:45 AM

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Some Wisconsin communities are considering adding a vehicle registration fee to offset road repair and maintenance costs.

The fee, known as a wheel tax, would help local governments raise money for transportation-related projects, The Leader-Telegram ( ) reported.

The tax was recently proposed in Chippewa County by Chippewa County Administrator Frank Pascarella. The county board discussed the tax last week and will vote on the proposal in September.

If adopted, Chippewa County could use the money to clear snow off of roads and make repairs. Pascarella said the county highway department has already gone more than $500,000 over its annual budget.

"Budgets have not been able to keep pace with cost increases, especially materials," Pascarella said. "We need to prepare for this, not ignore it."

City officials in Appleton are also discussing the addition of a vehicle registration fee. The $20 per vehicle wheel tax will be voted on by city council members later this month.

Dan Bahr, a government affairs associate with the Wisconsin Counties Association, said highway departments in many counties throughout the state are facing financial hardships because of recurring severe weather.

Eau Claire is also having problems funding road repairs and has considered adopting a wheel tax in the past. But the proposal was rejected at the county level in 2007 and by the city council the following year.

Pat LaVelle, an Eau Claire County supervisor and a member of the county Highway Committee, said the tax is unfair because the fee is the same for all vehicles, regardless of their size.

"It penalizes someone who drives a small car," LaVelle said. "If they would make it fair for everyone, I would say go ahead and do it."

Local governments in Milwaukee, Janesville, Beloit and St. Croix County currently collect the additional fee.

St. Croix County implemented a $10 per vehicle wheel tax in 2008. Highway Commissioner Tim Ramberg said "it's a great tool" that has allowed the county to improve the quality of its roads.

"Once our residents understood it came right back into our community people supported it," he said.

St. Croix County raised $750,000 through the tax last year.

Wheel taxes usually cost motorists who own one vehicle an additional $5 to $20 per year.

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