Appleton wheel tax falling short, could be replaced

Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 9:26 PM CDT
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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - Appleton’s wheel tax is falling short.

City officials say it’s not generating enough money to help cover the cost of road projects, so Wednesday the council approved funding to explore other options.

Appleton enacted a wheel tax in 2014, but since then it’s covered less and less, putting some future projects on hold.

“It’s generating about $1.2 million, which when we first started out was close to 30 percent of what we were spending on road reconstructions at that time. Now it’s maybe making up one out of every six dollars we spend on road reconstruction at most,” said Alderman Brad Firkus.

The vote Wednesday allows the city to spend more than $72,000 on a study to determine whether a transportation utility fee might be more equitable. Instead of taxing vehicles it would tax properties, based on trips generated.

Director of Public Works Paula Vandehey said, “Maybe a single family home generates 10 trips a day, where a gas station might generate a thousand trips a day. So you would add up all the trips generated throughout the city and say how much money we want to generate through that, and divide that amount of money by the trips and it could be, okay, a single family home is going to pay $40 a year, let’s say.”

The shortfall caused by the wheel tax has also forced the city to borrow more money, which is why Alderman Firkus wants to see if there’s a better way.

Although, he doesn’t see the city returning to special assessments.

“Right now we are borrowing way too much to keep up on our roads, and I think that limits what we can do and how much can do each year. We know we need to do more than we have been recently,” he added.

The study is expected to take about six months to complete.

After that, the council will decide which direction to go in.

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