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Public hearing Tuesday on county 'wheel tax' would boost vehicle fees
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Langlade County, faced with depleting its coffers to cover ever-increasing costs for social service and other programs, may be going on the road for cash.

On Tuesday, the county's Executive Committee will hold a public hearing on a plan to tax most motor vehicles registered within the count--including the city of Antig--$20 a year to finance transportation needs.

The meeting will be held at 9 a.m. in the county board room located on the lower level of the Safety Building. The public hearing is the first item, with potential action by the Executive Committee coming later in the agenda. If approved it would go to the full 21-member County Board for action later this month.

The proposed ordinance calls for an annual vehicle registration feeoften called a wheel tax--of $20, which would be added on to the notices mailed by the Department of Transportation. It would push the price of registering an automobile in Langlade County from the state-imposed $75 to $95.

The county anticipates the tax would raise about $400,000 annually.

The ordinance notes that the funds generated would be required to be used for the highway department but that “the county is not obligated to maintain the same level of funding for transportation-related expenses in any future property tax levy.”

In other words, according to Corporation Counsel Robin Stowe, the county could shift property tax dollars currently earmarked for the highway department to other areas, such as the ever-increasing costs for out-of-home child placements. Reserve funds set aside for those placements have been depleted and the county needs to find about half-a-million more dollars a year to cover those costs.

“In my mind, if the county goes with a wheel tax, it gives us the ability to sustain levels for transportation and re-allocate other money where it is needed,” he said.

According to the state DOT, city of Antigo residents have 42 percent of the 26,121 cars, trucks and other vehicles registered in Langlade County, but Stowe said the statute does not allow the county to share the money raised with the municipality. Instead, the city could impose an additional tax of its own on top of the county's $20.

“This doesn't give us the ability to share that with the city or actually maintain city roads,” Stowe said. “It is really to benefit services provided by the highway department.”

There would be some exemptions to the tax, including buses, motorcycles, mopeds, motor homes, low-speed vehicles and trailers. In addition, trucks registered as more than 8,000 pounds or registered as farm or dual purpose farm would not have to pay the fee, nor would vehicles registered as antique, collector and a few other categories.

Stowe explained that unlike units of government such as the city, which can increase revenues through areas such as utilities, and tax incremental finance districts, the county's options are limited. Supervisors cannot increase the levy above state-imposed limits and dollars from areas such as timber sales are being stretched. And they can't keep covering deficits in social services from the general fund.

“The one thing left for counties now, apart from property taxes, is the wheel tax,” he said. “It gives us a revenue source to sustain our transportation program.”

The proposal has already drawn the ire of some, with flyers distributed anonymously in the White Lake area claiming that the state is stripping road funds, because Gov. Scott Walker needing the money “for his airplane and Foxconn.”

The flyer includes the names of the members of the Executive Committee but Stowe stressed supervisors had nothing to do with its distribution.

“That did not come from us,” he said.

The public is encouraged to attend and voice their opinions, he said. If needed, an additional hearing could be held at a later date--and perhaps in a larger venue--prior to any decision at either the committee or full board level.


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Public hearing Tuesday on county 'wheel tax' would boost vehicle fees
space
Langlade County, faced with depleting its coffers to cover ever-increasing costs for social service and other programs, may be going on the road for cash.

On Tuesday, the county's Executive Committee will hold a public hearing on a plan to tax most motor vehicles registered within the count--including the city of Antig--$20 a year to finance transportation needs.

The meeting will be held at 9 a.m. in the county board room located on the lower level of the Safety Building. The public hearing is the first item, with potential action by the Executive Committee coming later in the agenda. If approved it would go to the full 21-member County Board for action later this month.

The proposed ordinance calls for an annual vehicle registration feeoften called a wheel tax--of $20, which would be added on to the notices mailed by the Department of Transportation. It would push the price of registering an automobile in Langlade County from the state-imposed $75 to $95.

The county anticipates the tax would raise about $400,000 annually.

The ordinance notes that the funds generated would be required to be used for the highway department but that “the county is not obligated to maintain the same level of funding for transportation-related expenses in any future property tax levy.”

In other words, according to Corporation Counsel Robin Stowe, the county could shift property tax dollars currently earmarked for the highway department to other areas, such as the ever-increasing costs for out-of-home child placements. Reserve funds set aside for those placements have been depleted and the county needs to find about half-a-million more dollars a year to cover those costs.

“In my mind, if the county goes with a wheel tax, it gives us the ability to sustain levels for transportation and re-allocate other money where it is needed,” he said.

According to the state DOT, city of Antigo residents have 42 percent of the 26,121 cars, trucks and other vehicles registered in Langlade County, but Stowe said the statute does not allow the county to share the money raised with the municipality. Instead, the city could impose an additional tax of its own on top of the county's $20.

“This doesn't give us the ability to share that with the city or actually maintain city roads,” Stowe said. “It is really to benefit services provided by the highway department.”

There would be some exemptions to the tax, including buses, motorcycles, mopeds, motor homes, low-speed vehicles and trailers. In addition, trucks registered as more than 8,000 pounds or registered as farm or dual purpose farm would not have to pay the fee, nor would vehicles registered as antique, collector and a few other categories.

Stowe explained that unlike units of government such as the city, which can increase revenues through areas such as utilities, and tax incremental finance districts, the county's options are limited. Supervisors cannot increase the levy above state-imposed limits and dollars from areas such as timber sales are being stretched. And they can't keep covering deficits in social services from the general fund.

“The one thing left for counties now, apart from property taxes, is the wheel tax,” he said. “It gives us a revenue source to sustain our transportation program.”

The proposal has already drawn the ire of some, with flyers distributed anonymously in the White Lake area claiming that the state is stripping road funds, because Gov. Scott Walker needing the money “for his airplane and Foxconn.”

The flyer includes the names of the members of the Executive Committee but Stowe stressed supervisors had nothing to do with its distribution.

“That did not come from us,” he said.

The public is encouraged to attend and voice their opinions, he said. If needed, an additional hearing could be held at a later date--and perhaps in a larger venue--prior to any decision at either the committee or full board level.


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