- "There are no other options,” County Supervisor Steve Chilson told the Leader-Telegram after the County Board passed an annual $30 automobile registration fee at its July 17 meeting, 20-9.
Chilson, Vice Chair of the board's Highway Committee, said the county will need the $2.39 million in annual revenues generated by the fee for 10 years to bring county highway conditions up to standard. The improvements to the county's highway system are needed, the County says, to save on maintenance costs and reduce the need for debt.
How they voted:
Yes (20): Joe Knight, Stella Pagonis, Carl Anton, Bert Moritz, Steve Chilson, Kevin Stelljes, Don Mowry, Nancy Coffey, Colleen Bates, Connie Russell, Judy Gatlin, Nick Smiar, Lydia Boerboom, Martha Nieman, Jim Dunning, Gerald Wilkie, Mark Beckfield, Heather DeLuka, Melissa Janssen and Tami Schraufnagel.
No (9): Gary Gibson, Sandra McKinney, Ray Henning, Nathan Anderson, Sue Miller, Robin Leary, Brandon Buchanan, Kimberly Cronk and Pat LaVelle.
More information: Wheel tax debate heats up (Chamber blog, information on pros and cons); Supervisor says wheel tax needed for at least a decade (Leader-Telegram), EC County Board passes wheel tax (Leader-Telegram), Recorded video of the July 17 board meeting (Valley Media Works/Community Television)
Eau Claire County's proposed $30 annual vehicle registration fee has generated a wide-ranging debate since its introduction at the County Board's June meeting.
County officials are considering the addition of the fee to fund improvements to the county's highway system to save on maintenance costs and reduce the need for debt. Although less than the price of a tank of gas, the proposed $30 rate would match Milwaukee County as the state's highest local wheel tax. State law give counties and municipalities the power to levy a fee of up to $50 annually on automobiles if spent on roads.
The fee is up for consideration at the board meeting on July 17 at 7:00 p.m.
Critics and reaction from municipalities
One critic of the proposed fee is former Leader-Telegram Editor Don Huebscher, who argued in a July 8 column, Resist quick vote on wheel tax, that the fee is regressive, is an unfair subsidy of rural roads by city residents, and "lets state lawmakers off the hook for not doing their jobs and addressing this issue at the state level." Then, the City Councils of both Eau Claire and Altoona weighed in, asking the County to consult with them and consider a sharing of revenues because of the proportions of registered vehicles, street miles in those municipalities, and its impact on any prospects for their levying future wheel taxes of their own.
County leaders: Wheel tax one of few options available to maintain quality roads
In the same issue of the Leader-Telegram, County Finance & Budget Chair Stella Pagonis wrote, "The county vehicle registration fee is one of the few options available to county supervisors to provide a source of revenue to improve the road system. It is important to maintain our roadway system for the betterment of the community, and the wheel tax is the best proposed method to achieve this." Board member answers wheel tax questions (Leader Telegram)
Want to contact your county board member? If you live in Eau Claire County, here's how:
- Find your district: Click here for MyVoteWi - My Elected officials. Enter your voting address, then scroll down the list until you come to "Eau Claire County Supervisor, District (# shown)"
- Click here for Eau Claire County's District Supervisors web page. Scroll down until you come to your district number. Your Supervisor's name, e-mail address and phone number will be listed there.
More information: Support for $30-per-vehicle registration fee wavers (Leader-Telegram), City requests meeting with county on proposed wheel tax (Leader-Telegram), Altoona City Council questions $30 for wheel tax (Leader-Telegram), Eau Claire County Board To Consider Vehicle Registration Fee (Chamber Blog), Eau Claire County wheel tax Informational web page
Posted by: Scott Rogers, Governmental Affairs & Workforce Director