Lincoln’s wheel tax on cars will increase to $74 on Sunday, Sept. 1. It's the last in three years of increases intended to bring in more money for city street construction and repair.

The City Council approved an 18.5 percent increase in the city’s wheel tax, with increases spread over three years, as part of budget decisions in 2011.

The wheel tax for cars went up $20 over three years, from $54 in 2011, and rose $30 for pickup trucks, from $81 to $111.

Even before the final scheduled increase, Lincoln has the highest wheel tax of the five Nebraska cities that use the tax to help pay for street construction and repair.

After next month's increase, Lincoln's tax will be $24 higher than Omaha’s $50 wheel tax, however Omaha brings in about $1.3 million a year from a $25 fine on those who register their vehicles after plates have expired.

The other Nebraska communities with a wheel tax are tiny Farnam in Dawson County, $20; Hastings, $12; and Arlington, $10.

Lincoln’s wheel tax varies by type of vehicle, ranging from $18 for small trailers to $370 for large trucks, based on new fees in September.

Wheel tax revenue — about $16.6 million next year — will provide for about 80 blocks of residential rehabilitation and work on major streets in Lincoln, including Old Cheney Road from 70th to 82nd streets, said Thomas Shafer, design and construction manager for the city's Public Works and Utilities Department.

The wheel tax is generally the second highest of the motor vehicle taxes and fees paid by owners of newer cars and trucks every year as part of the registration process.

The largest tax for people with newer vehicles is the state motor vehicle tax, which is based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. That money is split among the county, school district and city.

Eventually, the motor vehicle tax drops to just a few dollars for cars older than 14 years. The city’s wheel tax rate, however, doesn't change.

The city’s wheel tax revenue next year will be divided among more than half a dozen programs, based on city budget documents:

* $2.5 million for residential rehabilitation and intersection improvements.

* $7.3 million for roadway and bridge rehabilitation.

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* $250,000 for the East Beltway, to protect the future corridor.

* $2.2 million for Old Cheney, Warlick intersection improvements.

* $1.9 million for Old Cheney, 70th to 82nd streets.

* $2.1 million for studies, preliminary engineering, right-of-way, construction and computer records.

* $520,000 for sidewalk maintenance and repair.

Lincoln's wheel tax began in 1958 at $4 for cars.   

This is the second multiyear increase. The council approved a series of three automatic increases in 2003 that raised the wheel tax from $39 to $54 between 2003 and 2010.

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Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.



Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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