NO Wheel Tax

Charlotte Toth, Linda Yuds and Jack Yuds attend the Dec. 4 Beaver Dam Common Council meeting with signs opposing a proposed "wheel tax" for vehicles registered in the city.

The Beaver Dam Common Council rejected a proposed wheel tax in an 8-6 vote Monday night after a lengthy debate and two attempts to go straight to a referendum, based on a proposed state law which would require a referendum for the approval of such a tax, and the repeal of all those taxes previously enacted in the state.

The wheel tax was being called the “municipal vehicle registration fee.”

The second reading and a public hearing on the registration fee was scheduled for Monday, with a gathering of citizens in the audience to speak out against it. Three residents held signs opposing the tax. The tax would have been reconsidered after two years. Over those two years, the fee was expected to yield about $480,000 for road repairs.

Beaver Dam Fire Chief Allan Mannel spoke of candidates for jobs with the department who looked at city streets before considering relocating to Beaver Dam.

“The condition of the streets reflects strongly on the city,” he said. “It’s something for you to consider.”

Peter Ostrander was among those who spoke against the tax.

“I’m still reeling from the property tax increase” resulting from a $36 million referendum for school renovations approved last fall, Ostrander said. “At least holding a wheel tax referendum in April gives people a chance to respond to it. I’m against the tax as it is currently proposed.”

Others spoke strongly against the wheel tax as proposed by the city, including Common Council members who stated that their constituents also oppose it.

Council members heard the first reading Dec. 4. The wheel tax would have imposed a fee on vehicles that weigh 8,000 pounds or less. If approved, the city would then discuss the tax with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. The wheel tax would have been collected with annual vehicle registration fees. WisDOT would keep an administrative fee of 17 cents per vehicle.

Ritchie Piltz, the city’s director of facilities and engineering, gave a presentation on street funding and the registration fee. He said that this needs to be discussed as an option whether the fee is approved or not.

Piltz told the council that the registration fee is being considered because of state-imposed levy limits, stagnant state transportation funding, rising costs for road improvements and the city falling behind in the ability to maintain streets.

According to Piltz, streets in the city were designed to last 15-30 years and some streets are more than 45 years old.

If the city were to implement a $20-per-vehicle tax, it could generate an estimated $480,000 over two years for the city, which could then go toward city street projects like seal coating and reconstruction. According to Piltz, typical bids for street projects range from $140,000 to $169,000 per 300 feet of concrete. Piltz added that all money collected from such as tax must be used only for transportation-related purposes.

According to the city, the registration fee could apply to 12,000 to 14,000 registered vehicles.

Piltz said that antique, collector, historic military and hobbyist vehicles, motorcycles, mopeds, motor homes and trailers as well as former prisoners of war and Medal of Honor winners would be exempt from the registration fee.

There are 17 municipalities and five counties that impose a local vehicle-registration fee in Wisconsin.

Discussions related to a registration fee in Beaver Dam began in October when council members on the Operations Committee talked about this a potential source of revenue for city street projects.

Ben Rueter covers Beaver Dam, Horicon and Juneau city governments for the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen.