Portage County officials to host public information meeting regarding possible vehicle registration fee
For the City Times
STEVENS POINT — Portage County officials released information on a public meeting surrounding a potential vehicle registration fee. The release is below in full:
Portage County will be hosting a public information meeting regarding a potential vehicle registration fee on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018 at 3:30 pm in Conference Room 1 & 2 of the Portage County Annex, located at 1462 Strongs Ave. County staff will have a brief presentation at 3:45 pm followed by a question and answer session until 5:00 pm.
The vehicle registration fee will be considered at the Portage County Board of Supervisors meeting on November 20th after it was initially recommended by the Portage County Highway and Finance Committees. The fee was recommended to be set at $25/eligible vehicle for a period of 5 years and was a result of Portage County’s evaluation of the long-term funding needs for the county’s highway infrastructure. The fee would generate approximately $1.4 million/year of revenue which must be utilized for transportation purposes per Wisconsin State Statute 341.35(6r).
“Every year we’re faced with a deteriorating situation that gets worse, more dangerous to drive on, and more expensive to fix. This registration fee only covers part of our funding deficit, so there’s still an opportunity for the state to step in and help on a state issue,” states County Executive Chris Holman. “While this funding will come from people in the county, it also stays in the county and will only be used for its intended purpose. I know why it’s not a wildly popular option with some folks, but this is one area where we can help ourselves stand on our own two feet. For all of these reasons, I’m glad to see the County Board looking at this as an option and I’ll support their decision.”
Over the past few years, the County has relied on borrowing as a revenue source for improvement projects. Borrowing has been primarily utilized for improvement projects as the current revenues have not been sufficient for a continued investment in highway infrastructure. Portage County has provided a detailed fact sheet on their website which provide additional information and history on funding, expenditures, highway programming, and the vehicle registration fee. The website can be found at: https://www.co.portage.wi.us/department/highway-department.
Wisconsin law allows a town, village, city or county to collect an annual municipal or county vehicle registration fee (wheel tax) in addition to the regular annual registration fee paid for a vehicle. The fee applies to vehicles kept in the municipality or county with:
- Automobile registration
- Truck registration at 8,000 lbs. or less (except dual purpose farm and other special license plates exempted by statute)
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) collects wheel tax fees for the municipality or county, keeps an administrative fee of 17 cents per vehicle application and sends the rest to the municipality or county. WisDOT collects the wheel tax at the time of first registration and at each registration renewal. State statute does not specify the amount of the wheel tax. However, the municipality or county must use all revenue from the wheel tax for transportation related purposes.
Portage County is one of the growing number of municipalities considering the vehicle registration fee as an option as the number has grown from four communities in 2011 to 27 communities by the end of 2017. Most recently, Eau Claire County approved a $30 fee earlier this summer.
“Unfortunately, local governments have limited local revenue options other than the property tax which has been restricted by the state,” states Portage County Highway Commissioner Nathan Check. “Funding from the tax levy and state aids have not been able to keep up with rising costs. While borrowing has been a short-term option, it does come with the additional administration and interest cost so the long-term sustainability has been questioned by both staff and our County Supervisors.”
Any questions pertaining to this project should be directed to Portage County Highway Commissioner Nathan Check at 715-345-5355 or by email at [email protected].
Any person who has special needs and plans on attending this meeting should contact the Highway Department at 715-345-5355 as soon as possible to ensure that reasonable accommodations can be made.
A quorum of any given Portage County committee including the County Board and the Executive Operations Committee may be present at this meeting.