Marshfield explores wheel tax
By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD – Marshfield officials debated the idea of implementing a wheel tax to raise money for road work, during a Dec. 18 Board of Public Works meeting.
City Administrator Steve Barg said, if implemented, the wheel tax would apply to vehicles of 8,000 pounds or less.
“The state collects the fee through the regular registration, so when you register your motor vehicle annually, first time or renewal, there would be a 17 cent amount kept as an administrative fee by the Department of Transportation,” he said. “The remainder would be remitted back to the municipality, in this case the city, for its use.
“It is clear that it needs to be used for transportation-related purposes only – so, streets, roads, repairs, those types of things would be the required use of these monies.”
The city of Marshfield recently had a streets-only funding referendum rejected by voters a year and a half ago, and yet, Alderman Mike Feirer says everyone he talks to wants better roads.
Feirer said, “I can honestly tell you that I’ve had at least three people who have called me about potholes in front of their houses, and I’ve asked them the question, ‘Did you vote for the referendum?’ and they say, ‘Absolutely not,” and I tell them, ‘Well, that’s why your potholes aren’t fixed.’ I said, ‘We can fill them, but it doesn’t work.’
“People don’t understand what we were trying to do… They still want the roads fixed, but they don’t want to give you the money. I don’t know how we are going to do it.”
If the city does pursue a wheel tax referendum, Alderman Chris Jockheck says it should be done next fall or later, citing a pending change in the Marshfield mayor’s office and talk of a GOP tax system overhaul at the federal level.
“It is not just the roads,” Jockheck said, “we are going to have to really get down and have people understand how we operate and where our revenue comes from, and when we don’t have the revenue, what gives.
“Madison doesn’t care and Washington doesn’t care, and that’s the discussion that we are going to have to start having, as a country, as a city. It’s just crazy what they are doing to us. We are not going to be able to operate without options of looking at a wheel tax or any other kind of tax we can dream up.”
About two dozen Wisconsin cities and counties have implemented a wheel tax so far, including Marathon County. There is currently a bill moving through the legislative process in Madison that would require a referendum to adopt a wheel tax or to keep using one that’s already in place. A public hearing was recently held on the bill.
Marshfield officials will revisit the wheel tax discussion in the spring.