Evansville City Council approves wheel tax

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Ashley McCallum
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

EVANSVILLEThe Evansville City Council on Tuesday approved charging a wheel tax, which some council members see as a necessary evil.

Residents with vehicles registered in the city will pay a $20 fee per vehicle in addition to their annual state registration fees.

Eligible vehicles include automobiles and trucks weighing 8,000 pounds or less, as defined by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

The wheel tax is estimated to raise about $100,000 annually for the city, which will offset the $100,000 decrease in state funding the city has seen since 2011, said Mayor Bill Hurtley.

Wheel tax revenue must be used for transportation-related projects, according to the DOT.

The DOT will collect 17 cents per vehicle for administrative fees. The remaining $19.83 will be returned to the city.

About 6,220 vehicles are registered in Evansville, Hurtley said.

Councilman Jim Brooks was the only council member in attendance to oppose the tax, saying it was "not a good way" for the city to collect money for road repairs.

Councilman Larry Dobbs said he supported the tax.

Hurtley, Councilman James Montgomery and Councilwoman Dianne Duggan agreed they did not want to tax residents, but they did not see any other viable alternative to pay for necessary road maintenance.

In the future, if the city receives more state funding for roads, the council might repeal the wheel tax.

"I will (repeal) if I'm still sitting here," Hurtley said.

Montgomery said he would support repealing the tax if more state funds are made available.

A couple of residents voiced concerns about future wheel tax increases during the council meeting.

Hurtley said he considers the $20 fee a "bare minimum" charge to make up for lost funding. The city council has the power to increase the tax, but Hurtley hopes it will not have to do so.

Wheel taxes can be enforced at the city and county levels, according to the DOT. If Rock County chose to implement a wheel tax in the future, Evansville residents would pay both the county and city fees.

Beloit, Janesville and Milton are the only other Rock County cities with wheel taxes. Janesville and Beloit residents pay $20, while Milton residents pay $30, the highest rate in the state.

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