Posted: August 15, 2014
Chippewa County Board supervisors are debating an issue that the Eau Claire County Board discussed two years ago: The dreaded "wheel tax". The $10 per vehicle tax is being encouraged by Chippewa County Administrator Frank Pascarella who claims that the past winter's increasing costs for snow removal and road maintenance has resulted in a $570,000 deficit to the county's budget.
If enacted and approved by the Chippewa County Board at its September 12th meeting, the "wheel tax" would raise about $530,000 each year since there are 53,000 registered vehicles in Chippewa County. The tax would not apply to vehicles that weigh more than 8,000 pounds or motorcycles, recreational vehicles or farm machinery.
My problem with the proposed "wheel tax" is that it is a regressive tax. Those who can least afford a $10 fee would be hurt by the increase. The only county in Western Wisconsin that has imposed the "wheel tax" is St. Croix County. Eau Claire County Board supervisors overwhelmingly rejected the idea two years ago.
There's no question that this past winter tested city and county budgets with snow removal. However, I would hope that county boards and other municipalities would consider some other financing mechanism rather than impose a tax on individuals who are already struggling to get to and from work.
On a completely different subject, I like the concept established by new Eau Claire Finance Director Jay Winzenz to wait on distributing all of the funds that the city would be contributing to the Confluence Project.
In his plan, the deal between the city and Haymarket Concepts, LLC, would result in an up-front payment of $2.95 million in 2015. Another $2.95 million would be paid after taxes on the new development in the proposed Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) District pays off the city's initial contribution.
The remaining $1.5 million that the city has voted to go towards the proposed arts center would be repaid through the city's existing TIF District in the Barstow Street area. This way it's a break-even proposition since all of the project costs would be recovered within the 27-year life expectancy of the TIF.