MILTON, Wis. - Officials in Milton are considering a proposal to implement a $30 wheel tax on every car or light truck owned by city residents in order to pay for road maintenance and improvements.
If approved by Milton's city council in the city's 2017 budget, it would be the highest wheel tax in the state.
City Administrator Al Hulick said the tax is designed to make up for a lack of state road funding, bringing in around $165,000 for Milton's roads.
"The funding that we have seen on an annual basis continues to decrease," Hulick said. "We lost another $25,000 this year for infrastructure improvements."
Hulick said the tax is a "last resort" to fund the city's streets without borrowing more money.
"There's really only two other options that would be available to a local municipality in this regard," Hulick said. "You need to cut services or you would do nothing."
Milton Alder Lynda Clark said a wheel tax appears to be the city's best option without the prospect of any additional state funding.
"I don't think there's another way that anyone's come up with," Clark said. "I wouldn't support it if I didn't have to."
One Milton resident told News 3 he worries about being able to pay the wheel tax if the city approves it.
"I'm on Social Security, we haven't had a raise for almost two years. Where do you get it?" Thurlow Nelson said. "It means more money coming out and not more money coming in."
Hulick said that while Nelson and drivers like him have legitimate concerns, the wheel tax is necessary.
"(I) totally understand that that is quite a change for individuals who live in the city of Milton. (I'm) certainly not trying to downplay the impact that would have on folks with fixed incomes," Hulick said. "Although the wheel tax may seem like kind of a shock to the system, it is something that is a necessity to local municipalities."
Clark said without a wheel tax, roads that will continue to deteriorate, and drivers will notice.
"We're not going to hear about those potholes right now, but in the spring, when the snow falls, we're going to hear about how bad the roads are," Clark said.
Other cities in Rock County and across the state have implemented wheel taxes. Milton's nearby neighbor, Janesville, has a $20 wheel tax.
"The cost of doing business for a city is far outpacing the amount of revenue that can be collected by that city," Hulick said.
Hulick said because of the lack of state transportation funds, other municipalities are turning to wheel taxes to make up the difference. He said Milwaukee County officials, for example, are considering a $60 wheel tax.
Milton alders met Monday night to discuss the city's 2017 budget, including the wheel-tax proposal.
Hulick said a vote on whether to implement the wheel tax could come in late November. He said the city is open to residents' suggestions, and the $30 figure is not set in stone.
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