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Wheel tax approved

Car owners to pay $20 per year

By Scott Bellile

Automobile owners living within New London city limits will begin paying a yearly $20 municipal motor vehicle registration fee in 2018.

The New London City Council approved the ordinance establishing the wheel tax at the Sept. 12 council meeting. The ordinance passed on a 9-1 vote, with Second District Alderman Tom O’Connell voting against.

The newly created Section 12.30 of the New London Municipal Code will impose the annual fee on top of the state’s $75 vehicle registration fee.

Under Wisconsin law, vehicles that are exempt include antique and collector vehicles, buses, farm trucks, mopeds, motorcycles, motor homes and trucks heavier than 8,000 pounds.

Taking effect Jan. 1, the fee could generate close to $200,000 a year for municipal road repairs, city officials anticipate.

“Am I correct that this money can only be used for road maintenance, not for buying vehicles or anything?” First District Alderman Robert Besaw asked.

“Correct,” New London Mayor Gary Henke replied.

First District Alderman John Faucher proposed the wheel tax earlier this year. He reiterated his stance that it was a hard decision but state lawmakers will not reverse declines in local road maintenance funding anytime soon.

Faucher cited the removal of the State Highway 15 bypass project from the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee’s proposed budget as an example of lawmakers ignoring municipalities’ pleas for road improvements.

“I still feel that we are putting our necks on the line, but we need to ensure that our roads stay to a repairable state,” Faucher said in defense of the wheel tax. “And I do appreciate the feedback we received and we’ll see what happens on the state level with funding for these important roads.”

“Yeah. I don’t see it in the foreseeable future any help for roads coming through the state at all,” Henke said.

Henke later added that when traveling out of state, “it’s amazing how good the roads are in every neighboring state until you get back to Wisconsin.”

Faucher reminded the public that state lawmakers are considering legislation that would require wheel taxes be approved by community members via referendum.

If a law were approved, then municipalities that have already enacted a wheel tax would be required to let their residents vote on it.

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