Dave Reid

$20 Vehicle Registration Fee or $2500 Assessment?

By - Jul 17th, 2008 11:10 am
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Condition of our Streets

Condition of our Streets

Call it what you want, a new tax, a pothole fee, or a wheel tax but the intention is to rebuild our streets in a timely manner. Of course there are cries of “tax hell”, that property taxes are too high, and that this will cause people and business to leave the City of Milwaukee. But the truth is, that the current assessment system encourages people and business to move out of the city whereas the new system actual favors business and property owners.

Under the current system property owners pay an assessment equal to 60 percent of the costs of a road reconstruction project that borders their property on top of their property taxes. The average cost of one of these assessments is $2500, but as it is based on the how much of your property fronts the street a larger commercial site could see assessments significantly higher. By implementing the $20 per year vehicle registration fee it will reduce the road improvement assessment to $0, thereby taking a large burden off of property owners.

To be clear this isn’t about reducing property taxes. It is about eliminating assessments for road reconstruction and repaving projects to allow for reconstruction work to occur when needed. What has been happening, since 2000 when this assessment formula was approved, is that if the property owners on the street couldn’t afford or didn’t want to pay for the roadwork they could lobby the Public Works Committee to delete the project. The result of deleting projects has been to push the average age of Milwaukee streets to 163 years. Of course streets aren’t designed to last that long which has caused a rise in maintenance costs, and the number of person property complaints against the City of Milwaukee to rise due to the proliferation of potholes.

Is it a perfect solution? No of course not. For example there are many commuters that make user of our streets who will continue to get a free pass. There are large businesses that will get the benefit of our streets but will no longer pay the assessments costs for up keep. But what it does do, is to shift a significant, often unplanned for, burden off of property owners which will allow for our streets to be rebuilt in a timely fashion.


2 thoughts on “$20 Vehicle Registration Fee or $2500 Assessment?”

  1. jcg says:

    Well said. I don’t care if they call it a tax. As someone who had $950 worth of pothole-induced damage done to my car this winter, I BEG the city to pass this if it means streets will be better maintained. It seems to me that people who scream bloody murder at the nearest hint of the word “tax” never endeavor to consider the cost savings and other benefits that tax investments provide us. I always ask people if they think they could provide the streets they use, the military that protects them, the libraries and parks they use, the court system that makes us free, etc. if they were left to provide these things on their own. Looking at things that way, taxes are a bargain investment. Of course we always want wise use of our tax dollars, but the great thing is: the tax spenders are able to be held accountable at the ballot box (unless you’re Scott Walker and aim to privatize everything and remove that accountability).

  2. Dave Reid says:

    Having watched dozens of Public Works Committee meetings it became clear even to me that something needed to be done about the assessment structure. Because meeting after meeting road projects were getting delete because property owners couldn’t afford or didn’t want to pay the assessments. Of course this has been degrading the quality of our streets and this last winter busted them wide open. Hopefully this resolution will get through soon, because our streets are a mess!

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