UPDATED: Marathon County Board renews wheel tax


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Residents in Marathon County will once again see a $25 fee on their vehicle registration bill starting in December. 

The Marathon County Board voted to remove the sunset clause from last year’s wheel tax ordinance, which means the wheel tax will remain in place until the board votes to repeal it. 

The vehicle registration fee adds $25 to the bill residents pay to register their vehicles in Marathon County. Last year the fee raised $2.9 million that helped fund county road maintenance, filling a gap left by decreased state funding and an increase in material costs. 

The money will help the county’s highway department maintain the county’s 614 miles of roads, along with 110 county bridges. Marathon County is geographically large and has many rivers, making road maintenance expensive here, says Marathon County Highway Commissioner James Griesbach. Highway crews tried to redo roughly 20 miles per year on average. 

The cost of maintaining roads has skyrocketed, Griesbach explained Wednesday. Asphalt, for example, increased from $20.40 in 2005 to $47.76 in 2015. A mile of road in 2006 cost $85,000 per mile to pave; in 2015 it cost $208,000 per mile.

The vote came following a public hearing in which three residents spoke and two failed amendments that would have set a future sunset clause that would have required another vote at a future date. 

The board held the vote Wednesday in special session because the state needed to be notified 90 days prior to when the registration fee would start, and Wednesday’s vote ensured there wouldn’t be an interruption. The wheel tax first started in December of 2016. 

Marathon County Board Chair Kurt Gibbs told the audience Wednesday that no one likes paying taxes, especially new taxes, but that the fee is necessary if the county is to maintain its roads.