WAUSAU — County leaders will hold a public meeting before deciding whether to extend a $25 wheel tax on vehicle registrations.
The fees were instituted last year by the Marathon County Board and were added to vehicle registration bills beginning Dec. 1, 2016. The wheel tax, which applies to all cars and light trucks under 8,000 pounds registered within the county, was used as a means to generate revenue for highway maintenance and was originally set to end Nov. 30.
The program has generated more than $1.7 million in the first seven months and is projected to raise about $2.9 million in total, according to county documents. Registration fees have accounted for 46 percent of funding requests for road resurfacing and bridge repair and cannot be used for purposes not related to transportation, officials said.
County leaders now must decide whether to end or renew the program, but will take public comment on the matter at 7 p.m. on Wed., Aug. 30 at the Marathon County Courthouse.
In a packet of information posted on the county’s website, Marathon County Administrator Brad Karger said he recognizes that the wheel tax is not a popular option. But without the wheel tax, Karger writes, the county will face a significant deficit that could impact a number of nonprofit agencies the county now supports. Those groups include The Women’s Community, the Marathon County Historical Society, the Healthy Teens Initiative and others.
Wausau leaders considered a similar $20 per vehicle wheel tax that would have begun when the county’s wheel tax ended, but left the decision up to voters in the November 2016 election. That proposal was nixed after the referendum was defeated by a margin of 63 to 37 percent.