DO NOT RAISE “TEMPORARY” OMAHA WHEEL TAX

Ccwatch44.doc. 8-15.
NEBRASKA TAXPAYERS FOR FREEDOM ISSUE PAPER:
DO NOT RAISE “TEMPORARY” CITY WHEEL TAX.

BACKGROUND. Officially named the City Motor Vehicle Registration fee, the Omaha wheel tax originally was a temporary ordinance passed by the city council in 1917. The initial fee was $1, paid with vehicle registrations and renewals. In 1919, this temporary fee rose to $2, where it remained until 1946, when the city raised it to $4 annually. In Jan. 1960, it rose to $8. Following severe street damage stemming from a harsh 1959-1960 winter, a “temporary” increase of $5 applied for emergency street repairs. The following January saw the fee revert to $8 annually. In Jan. 1983, the council hiked the fee to $16; in 1988 the fee rose to $18. In 1993, the wheel tax rose to $19.75 annually, bringing in $5.6 million in revenue. The council hiked the tax to $25 in 2001, bringing in $7.16 million in revenue. In 2004, the tax rose to $35, garnering $12.78 million in new tax money. This temporary tax recently accrued about $18 million annually for street maintenance. State statutes restrict this tax to expenditures on street repairs and maintenance, street construction, street sweeping, and snow removal. State auditors annually audit these expenditures. This tax applies to vehicles within the city limits only.

MAYOR SUTTLE TAX HIKE. Mayor Suttle asked city council members to support his initiative to raise the wheel tax to raise revenue to repair Omaha streets hammered by harsh winter snow and ice. He wanted to increase the fee by $23 to $58 annually, a hike to raise about $10 million more annually. Only then-council member Jean Stothert publicly opposed this tax hike. The city council raised the wheel tax to $50 for passenger cars.

TAKE ACTION. Now, Councilman Chris Jerram wants to raise the wheel tax again to fund additional street renovations and repairs. He and Councilman Franklin Thompson want to place a proposal on the 2016 primary election ballot, to institute a new wheel fee beginning in Jan. 2017 and increasing in 2018 and 2019. This new tax would sunset in 2023 unless renewed by voters. Contact your city council member instead to lobby state senators to revise the state gas tax formula, so that Omaha receives $2 million more annually, lost under the formula altered in 2008. Also, lobby council members and the mayor to enhance the guarantees that private contractors must offer when constructing and repairing streets, at least a 2 yr. work warranty. Currently, asphalt and concrete paving degrades within 2-3 years on some projects. The city must alter the way in which it maintains its streets, to save taxpayer money. For example, in early spring 2010, a crew spent a week meticulously drilling and patching potholes on 42nd Street between Woolworth Avenue and Leavenworth Street. Several weeks later, another crew appeared and stripped off all the old asphalt and laid new asphalt pavement. Weeks later, crews drilled into the street to repair storm drains. Furthermore, the city must use better technology in its street maintenance. Laying new asphalt over seriously cracked concrete or asphalt works temporarily, until the cracks and holes appear in the same place in the new pavement. Oklahoma cities and other municipalities require better grades of concrete and asphalt for paving and felt-like rolls between old and new pavements to prevent old cracks and holes from working up through the new pavement. The city should privatize a large number of its street repair and maintenance chores.

Contact your city council members as follows:
OMAHA CITY COUNCIL
District 1: Pete Festersen, 402-444-5527, pete.festersen@cityofomaha.org
District 2: Ben Gray, 402-444-5524, ben.gray@cityofomaha.org
District 3: Chris Jerram, 402-444-5525, chris.jerram@cityofomaha.org
District 4: Garry Gernandt, 402-444-5522, garry.gernandt@cityofomaha.org
District 5: Rich Pahls, 402-444-5528, rich.pahls@cityofomaha.org
District 6: Franklin Thompson, 402-444-5523, franklin.thompson@cityofomaha.org
District 7: Aimee Melton, 402-444-5526, aimee.melton@cityofomaha.org

Address mail to:
Councilman __________________________
Rm. LC-l
Omaha Civic Center
1819 Farnam Street
Omaha, NE. 68l83-0100

Agenda and Meeting Information: 402-444-5520
City Council meets at 2 PM every Tuesday in the Legislative Chambers.

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