APPLETON – If you own a vehicle and live in Appleton, how would you feel about shelling out another $20 a year? A city alderperson is proposing a so-called wheel tax.
While it would require all car owners to pay the tax, it could save homeowners thousands of dollars when the street in front of their property is repaired.
Like for some homeowners along John Street on Appleton's east side.
In some people’s yards are what looks like political campaign signs. The signs aren't driven by an upcoming election, but an upcoming special assessment bill that is getting political.
“To get a $10,000 bill in the mail is – I'm a single mother with two small children – I mean where is that money going to come from," said Shannon Tynen.
Tynen’s sign says she actually will have to pay the city $9,990 for the portion of her property that John Street and Telulah Avenue. Reconstruction will start next year.
Tynen has a different name for the so-called special assessment bill.
"It's very frustrating," said Tynen.
Evening the paying field
Alderperson Joe Martin is looking to get rid of the special assessment.
"You're going to hear those that say, ‘I paid, you have to pay,’” said Martin. “Is that really a fair way to do it?"
In the assessment’s place, Martin is proposing a $20 ‘wheel tax’ on Appleton-registered vehicles and light trucks.
"The one thing (the wheel tax) does, it hits everyone using (Appleton’s) roads," said Martin.
Julie Gregory had to pay a roughly $8,000 assessment on her property five years ago.
"Being someone that paid (the assessment) before, would you be upset with a (yearly tax on your vehicle)?" asked FOX 11’s Bill Miston.
"You know, not really because I feel like if it can make it fairer – from this point forward. You know, I've already paid it, it was kind of a pain, I didn't think it was fair, but it's kind of over and done,” said Gregory. “And I do think that changing it would make it fairer for everyone."
"Isn't (Martin’s proposal) just another tax on the people of Appleton, if they have a vehicle?" FOX 11’s Bill Miston asked Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna.
"It's called a wheel tax,” said Hanna. “Yeah."
Hanna says the city council could pursue alternatives, besides the wheel tax – like borrowing money or increasing property taxes.
"There's a number of choices, and pick your poison," Hanna said.
Hanna says a wheel tax on the roughly 85,000 eligible vehicles registered in the city would generate about $1.7 million a year. Special assessments bring in, on average, bring in $1.3 million a year.
Hanna admits the special assessment bills can be tough to swallow.
“But I always try to bring the discussion back to, the philosophical basis for why we do this,” said Hanna. “Is there a benefit to having a street in front of your house that allows for access to your property?"
Appleton does allow people to pay the special assessment over a five-year period – but with interest.
The city council is expected to receive Martin's resolution tomorrow. It would then go on to a committee for review, and then approval or rejection.