WAUSAU — A wheel tax approved last year by county leaders that was set to expire Nov. 30 will now continue indefinitely.
The $25-per-vehicle fees were initiated 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, is being used as a means to generate revenue for highway maintenance.
The measure passed by a vote of 26-4, according to Marathon County Clerk Nan Kottke. Dave Nutting, Chris Voll, Jim Schaefer and Randy Fifrick voted against the tax.
Eight members were absent on Wednesday: Jack Hoogendyk, Sherry Abitz, Maynard Tremelling, James Seefeldt, Joel Lewis, Alan Christensen, Allen Opall and Richard Gumz. Of those, Hoogendyk, Abitz and Tremelling were excused, according to the vote tally supplied by Kottke.
About a year ago, members of the county board voted to implement the registration fee for a year, but many said they did so only because the fee would be temporary. Hoogendyk, who missed the meeting because of a long-planned trip to a Washington, D.C. conference, wrote a letter to the board in advance of the vote urging them to reject the measure.
“I implore you keep your pledge and vote against this additional burden on Marathon County taxpayers and work with the administrator as a team to find places where we can economize, reduce, consolidate, privatize services, or perhaps sell unneeded assets to find the resources needed to fund our county in a responsible manner without adding more tax burden to our citizens,” Hoogendyk’s letter read.
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.
The county board took public comment Wednesday before voting to approve the tax. 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.