Mayor floats wheel tax as option to catch up on road fixes

La Crosse has increased the miles of roads fixed each year but they have hit a funding block, and the need for fixes keeps growing.

The city will fix approximately eight miles of road in 2018, but according to Mayor Tim Kabat La Crosse had to dip into reserve funding to do so. While needs continue to grow, the funds have not grown along with it. 

"We really don’t have any other potential sources of money other than the property tax," Mayor Kabat said. "And I think it’s pretty clear that folks are not interested in significantly increasing their property tax, so the wheel tax is an option."

A wheel tax is a vehicle registration fee that the city would take. Kabat estimated it could raise at least an extra million dollars for roads each year. 

Tier 1 roads, or those deemed the "worst of the worst" by the city, currently total over $11 million in project costs. That doesn’t include state connecting highways like La Crosse Street. Kabat characterized roads in this category as projects that are sometimes years behind on fixes. A wheel tax, he said, could help prevent that list of roads from getting far beyond control.

"What ends up happening is you fall behind, right? So not only do you not fix those absolute streets that need repairs today, but if you have to push them off to next year, well then a project that maybe you were planning to fix, now you’re not able to do that."

In total, he said La Crosse has over $41 million in unmet road projects, including two other tiers of varying condition. 

If a wheel tax were to be imposed, Mayor Kabat said he believes it should have a sunset, or ending date.

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