Cost of vehicle registration could be increasing

La Crosse County thinking about adding $20 registration fee

Each year drivers pay a registration fee to drive their cars. Next year the cost of that fee may be more expensive in La Crosse County.

The La Crosse County Board wants to add a wheel tax. An extra $20 to register your vehicle in the county.

The county says the extra money would be put to good use, but some drivers feel registration fees are already too expensive.

Carrie Callahan was at the DMV Friday picking up new tabs for her car.

“When I first bought my first car I remember it was right around $54 to register my vehicle and I just paid my registration today and I paid $78. I bought that car in 2000,” she said.

Callahan said the price of registration has gone up so many times in recent years, there’s no need for another $20 increase.

“It’s getting to the point where it’s unaffordable,” Callahan said.

But La Crosse County Board Chair Tara Johnson said the money generated would be used to benefit drivers.

“The intent of the supervisors who are looking at this is to make sure it goes to road projects because we have this huge volume of unmet road needs. $39 million,” Johnson said. “La Crosse County has about $39 million in unmet road needs right now.”

As of June 2014 there are nearly 89,000 vehicles registered in the county. At $20 a vehicle that’s almost $1.8 million in revenue. After taking out a small state fee, the county would gain about $1.76 million to put towards fixing county roads.

“It still will take many many years to catch up with that $39 million of unmet needs, but it’s a reliable revenue stream,” Johnson said.

Johnson compares the wheel tax to a usage fee because right now most road work funding comes from property taxes, and not everyone drives a car.

“If you drive a vehicle on county roads because your vehicle is registered in La Crosse County you will be paying the $20 vehicle registration fee, which to many seems more fair than a property tax payer who may ride their bike, who may take the bus, who may walk,” Johnson said.

But Callahan disagrees.

“It doesn’t need to go up anymore,” Callahan said.

The wheel tax would only be assessed to vehicles under 8,000 pounds.

The county board has not officially decided on a $20 fee, but that is the amount that will be proposed to the full board next month.

A vote will take place Nov. 12.

The wheel tax would go into effect Jan. 1, if approved.

If you would like to know more about the wheel tax the county board will be holding a public discussion on Nov. 10 at 5 p.m. at the County Administrative Center on 4th Street.