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Mayor to bring wheel tax proposal to council PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 24 January 2018 18:51

Although feedback ‘was trending negative,’ opinions about $20-per-vehicle levy have shifted, Mlada says

    Port Washington Mayor Tom Mlada plans to bring his controversial wheel tax proposal to the Common Council for consideration next month.
    Mlada told aldermen last week to expect a wheel tax ordinance on the council agenda for Tuesday, Feb. 6, saying it is important to bring in a new source of funding to repair the city’s streets.
    The annual $20 per vehicle wheel tax has generated considerable discussion in the city, but Mlada said he’s been heartened by the response from people once the concept is explained, either during private encounters or a public information session on the proposed fee held earlier this month.
    “I didn’t hear any overwhelming opposition,” he said. “It clearly was trending negative (initially) but lately the conversation seems to have turned.”
    While some people have suggested he wait until after the Legislature decides whether to require a referendum on wheel fees, Mlada told aldermen he does not believe that’s prudent.
    “I am inclined not to wait on the State Legislature,” he said.
    Although some people initially urged the city to hold its own referendum on the proposed tax, Mlada said he does not believe this is the right issue for a referendum.
    A referendum is appropriate for a major financial issue such as the $49 million school referendum held by the Port Washington-Saukville School District in 2015, Mlada said, but a $20 fee isn’t significant enough to warrant a vote.
    “This (a referendum) is not the answer to everything,” he said.
    Ald. John Sigwart suggested the city check with area legislators to see how likely it is that the Legislature would require a referendum.
    “I think we should take that into account,” Sigwart said. “If it’s imminent, we might as well just go to referendum.”
    City Administrator Mark Grams said he has talked to a representative from the League of Municipalities who estimated there’s less than a 50% chance the measure will be approved during this legislative session.
    Even if it were approved, Grams noted, communities would have 18 months to hold a referendum.
    “Right now, it doesn’t look like it’s moving with any speed through the Legislature,” he said.
    Mlada, who initially floated the idea of the wheel tax in November, told aldermen that the sooner they move on the proposal, the sooner the funds can be collected and applied to pending road work.
    If the city were to approve the wheel tax in March, he said, it could begin collecting it in July.
    The wheel tax would be collected by the State Department of Transportation when drivers renew their license plates annually and then distributed to the city monthly.
    Mlada estimated the city would collect about $200,000 annually from the fee, adding it would not supplant the money currently budgeted and borrowed by the city for road projects, but instead supplement those monies.
    The city borrows about $800,000 annually for road work, he said. Dedicating the wheel tax funds for road resurfacing would allow the city to extend the life of some streets, he said, while borrowed funds could be used for reconstruction projects.
    Everyone acknowledges that street repairs are a priority, Mlada said, but costs continue to increase while the city’s budget is lean, state aids are declining and levy limits mean the city can’t tax more for roadwork.
    Wheel taxes have been a contentious issue around the state since they were first allowed in 1967. Both municipalities and counties may charge a wheel fee, with proceeds dedicated to transportation needs.
    According to the Department of Transportation, 19 communities and six counties in the state charge a wheel fee. They range from small communities such as Gillett and Lodi to large cities like Sheboygan, Beloit and Milwaukee.
    Communities determine how much the wheel fee is — it ranges from $10 in Tigerton, Iron Ridge and Kaukauna to $30 in Milton and Milwaukee County.
    The money is collected by the DOT when drivers renew their vehicle licenses, although some plates are exempt from the tax, such as antique and collector plates, farm trucks and motor homes.
    Some communities set a sunset date for the wheel fee, and Mlada said this is something the city can consider when writing the ordinance.
    It can also consider setting the fee for a specific length of time, he said.

Comments (2)Add Comment
Mark Schmidt
NIX the Wheel Tax proposal.
written by Mark Schmidt, January 31, 2018
Tolls not wheel taxes.
So I live in Port Washington and will have to pay a wheel tax on my vehicles but the persons that live in Grafton, Cedarburg, Milwaukee etc. and come to Port for work or whatever everyday don't have to pay ?
The wheel tax is a punishment for living in the city of Port Washington, WI.
If this city intends to collect money from motorists to use the city streets then everybody that uses this city's streets should have to pay, not just the residents. That could be electronic toll booths.
Also there needs to be public input on this proposal. It needs to be put to a VOTE.
Mark Schmidt
written by Mark Schmidt, February 09, 2018
Well, it seems I'm the only city resident that cares about this 'wheel tax' proposal !
Glad that the mayor has found a new job too !
Time to diss the 'wheel tax' proposal.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 January 2018 18:52