Starke County Commissioners Bless Wheel Tax Exploration

starke-county-courthouseStarke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler has the blessing of the county commissioners to look into other sources of funds for road improvements.

He told them last week the county does not presently qualify for a lot of money available from the state because there’s no roadway user tax in place and said he would like to talk to the council about the costs and benefits of a wheel tax at various levels. Ritzler says counties that collect a wheel tax have some of the best roads in the state because all of the money that is collected is used to maintain and improve them.

He also understands some members of the public may not want to pay an additional tax or user fee but says having better roads would benefit everyone in terms of economic development, particularly from an agriculture point of view.

Ritzler was forced to dramatically scale back road repair and improvements in order to cover the additional cost of snow removal in his budget. The state briefly considered mandating counties to charge a wheel tax. Commissioner Kathy Norem says she was surprised by how much support was expressed locally for that idea.

“By consensus we’re willing to explore that, investigate that and see what it would mean to the bottom line, how it would impact the roads, and what people in the community would have to say about that,” Norem says.