Lake County looks for ways to fund road repairs
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent February 7, 2013 4:10PM
Updated: March 10, 2013 6:24AM
CROWN POINT — A wheel tax is on the table again as county officials look for ways to fund badly needed services such as road improvements in an environment where state and federal funding for such projects continues to shrink.
Lake County Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, in a work session Thursday said council members need to begin the discussion about implementing a wheel tax that could generate more than $10 million countywide to be used for capital investment in roads. He plans to open the matter for discussion when the council meets Tuesday.
“This is discussion. We are just getting the ball rolling,” Bilski said.
As proposed, any revenues collected would be distributed among the county’s cities and towns and would be divided according to the formula established by state statute. Communities now use motor vehicle highway tax funds for road work.
While the original intention of the law creating the state motor vehicle highway tax funds was to funnel that money into road construction and maintenance, state officials continue to chip away at what is distributed for that purpose. Currently, about 70 percent of those revenues go toward the Indiana State Police budget.
“When you see how the state distributes this money your jaw would drop,” Bilski said.
The local tax would be able to be used only for brick-and-mortar projects and not for costs such as consulting fees.
Ray Szarmach, council attorney, said the tax has two components, a flat “wheel” tax, and an excise surtax that could be a flat rate or a percentage. Both components must be approved.
According to a study using 2005 statistics conducted when the county last considered implementing a wheel tax, the tax could generate an estimated $2.969 million annually if the minimum tax were implemented or as much as $10.127 million if the maximum tax were imposed.