With Milton approaching the first anniversary of its initial wheel tax collections, the city unveiled a 10-year outline of how it plans to put those funds to use.
But a decade of planning could be for naught if the state eliminates local municipalities’ ability to implement wheel taxes, which are used to fund road repairs.
The city council announced the plan, known as the pavement improvement program, at its meeting Tuesday night. A spreadsheet the city provided shows a list of more than 250 roadwork projects scheduled to take place through 2027.
The projects include mill and overlay work—basically a full repavement to smooth bumpy roads—that would cost upward of $150,000 each. Others are minor seal coating jobs that would likely cost less than $1,000 each.
The 10-year plan will help the city finalize its list of projects and develop financial projections. But the schedule is a “living document” as streets deteriorate and repair priorities change, City Administrator Al Hulick said.
Potential 2018 projects include Northside Drive, Capman Street, Front Street, Woodcrest Lane and parking lots at the Community House and North Goodrich Park.
All those projects would cost more than $600,000. The city does not have the money to tackle all of those this year, so the council will need to choose which to prioritize, Hulick said.
Milton used a road quality rating system to try to be as objective as it could in scheduling repairs. Despite the $600,000 projection this year, anticipated annual roadwork costs diminish in the future with a $5.3 million total cost over the next decade, according to the city spreadsheet.
A $30 wheel tax was implemented in 2016, and the city began collecting money on vehicles registered there last spring. Hulick has previously said Milton can count on roughly $120,000 annually.
Work already started late last year with Milton repaving Arthur Drive, Bowers Lake Road and Columbus Street.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Hulick called wheel tax revenue a “sustainable funding source.” Knowing the city will have an annual influx of cash allowed the city to create its extensive list of repairs.
But the state could eliminate municipalities’ ability to implement a wheel tax if a bill, introduced by state Sen. Steve Nass, R-La Grange, advances in the state Assembly.
Hulick believes the measure has a good chance of passing based on other state actions limiting local governments, such as tax levy limits.
The pavement improvement program would become useless without the wheel tax. Road repairs would have to come from the general fund, which would take away from other city services, Hulick said.
He thinks Milton has some of the best road infrastructure in Rock County, but the city could not realistically maintain it without wheel tax funding, he said.
He understands the state has budget constraints as it deals with its own transportation funding issues. But he called it “incredibly infuriating” that state representatives feel the need to oversee this issue.
“What does a local wheel tax have anything to do with the state? It’s a complete usurp of local control, that’s all it is,” Hulick said. “And then they can sit back and say, ‘We lowered your taxes.’
“No you didn’t. You made our streets worse.”