Survey results showed taxpayers wanted to city to stay the course on road maintenance with a 4 percent bump in spending each year. The second plan would be to carry out a referendum to raise taxes and the least favorite option was the wheel tax
City Administrator Jay Shambeau said the conversation on road repair started again a couple months ago and at the last meeting the LRTC looked at three options:
Continue to spend 4 percent more per year on road maintenance
Enact a wheel tax of $20 per registered passenger vehicle / car or light truck. That could generate about $600,000 annually to be spent on roads.
Increase property taxes specifically for road projects.
Here’s the thing… for the last 6 or 7 years, the City of West Bend has controlled spending while they maintained or decreased property taxes. We have seen the city attract some great new businesses and unemployment drop to one of the lowest levels in history. The city has earned the right to ask the taxpayers for more money and for the taxpayers to seriously consider it.
In the coming months we’ll be able to take a closer look at the issue once we know what the specific ask is. My gut reaction is that a wheel tax is a non-starter. Nobody wants a new tax and watching Milwaukee pass one and double it within a year to ($60) should give anyone pause.
The other option is to stop the increase in spending on road repairs. That, of course, has consequences and the city leaders will have to demonstrate how that money is being spent wisely – particularly after the state repealed the prevailing wage laws and gave the City the power of Act 10.
A property tax increase is never popular, but may be an option. “How much” is always a question.
Also, it should be noted that the city does not operate in a vacuum. The odds are better than 60/40 that the West Bend School District will also be asking the voters for more money next year – possibly on the same ballot. While all of the school district’s voters don’t live in the City of West Bend, all of the voters of West Bend live in the school district. If both governments ask for tax increases on the same ballot, it is more likely that voters in the city will say “a pox on all of you.”