Appleton committee approves wheel tax

APPLETON – Would you be willing to pay a tax every year for driving, if it meant potentially avoiding a much bigger, one-time, bill down the road? It’s called a wheel tax and Wednesday, the proposal moved forward.

Wednesday evening Appleton’s finance committee voted to approve adding the wheel tax. That will still need to be approved by the full city council before it goes into effect.

A wheel tax is actually an additional fee drivers would pay every year when they register their cars. The Appleton proposal is $20. That is expected to generate about $1.7 million a year. Right now the city generates about $1.3 million on average from special assessments.

The wheel tax would apply only to vehicles weighing less than eight-thousand pounds. That leaves out large trucks and semis.

The plan is to start the tax next year.

Those who agree with the proposed change believe it’s a fair way to pay for road repairs. However, not every shares that view.

For months signs on John Street in Appleton have been part of a protest against special assessments. With Wednesday’s vote, the residents behind the signs are feeling hopeful.

“We didn’t expect to be this far this early. So we’re pleased with that,” said homeowner Cindy Bettendorf.

The city’s finance committee has recommended Appleton adopt a wheel tax to replace part of the assessments. The assessments are bills property owners pay the city for road reconstruction projects. They can cost upwards of $10,000 and some say the cost is crippling.

“Nobody’s spending any money right now. We’re not spending any money on our houses. We’re just hunkered down waiting to see what’s going to happen. We’re still looking at thousands of dollars if nothing changes,” explained homeowner Jane Marichal.

But the wheel tax does not cover everything under the special assessment umbrella.

“As an example, brand new subdivisions that are being built, those roads are not affected by what we just did. This is for reconstruction projects,” explained Alderperson Curt Konetzke.

Konetzke voted in favor of the wheel tax, although he does admit not everyone thinks it’s fair.

“So the wheel tax is going to be implemented, we’re going to be getting rid of special assessments? What about the people that paid the special assessments in 2014?” said Konetzke.

Then there’s the fact the wheel tax will not apply to every vehicle.

“Won’t be every driver in the City of Appleton. It won’t be every business owner that has a utility truck that they driving down the roads,” Konetzke told FOX 11.

Konetzke and other supporters told us no solution is completely fair, but this would be closest.

“You’re looking at the huge majority of city residents and my feeling is, it does spread it a mile wide and an inch deep,” said Marichal

“The wheel tax is much fairer, because it does spread it across. $20 most people can afford,” said Bettendorf.

The city council is expected to vote on the proposal within the next month or so.

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