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July 20, 2011

7

Will wheel tax dollars continue pouring into Antelope Valley?

by Deena Winter

The mayor wants to increase the city's wheel tax on cars and trucks -- but will the money continue going toward the Antelope Valley project?


That’s my question, upon hearing that Mayor Chris Beutler is proposing to increase the wheel tax by $20 for cars (more for trucks) over the next three years.

One thing I learned while I was following the money being spent on the Antelope Valley Project a few years ago is that the city began diverting lots of wheel tax revenue to the project.

As of 2008, more than $12 million in wheel tax dollars had been funneled into the project — which irritated those who could see infrastructure elsewhere being neglected.

New roads were built in Antelope Valley, but other roads that were promised were not. When the wheel tax was bumped up $15 in 1995, city officials said they would widen Old Cheney Road from 70th to 84th streets, 56th Street from Old Cheney Road to Pine Lake Road and Pine Lake from 56th to Nebraska 2.

That never happened.

And before the Antelope Valley Project began, the city engineer promised it wouldn’t raid money from other street projects. Of course, it did.

And the city’s infrastructure shortfall grew — in 2008 city officials themselves said they had a $56 million shortfall of street work waiting to be done within the city limits. From 2004 to 2008, only one stretch of arterial street was resurfaced. Of course, now we’re finally seeing road work around town, in large part thanks to Obama’s stimulus dollars for shovel-ready projects.

So I guess if I were on the City Council and considering whether to grant Beutler this wheel tax increase, the question I’d ask is: Will any of the money go to Antelope Valley? Should it?

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7 Comments Post a comment
  1. E
    Jul 20 2011

    Thank you again for reporting what the majority of Lincoln’s citizen’s are NOT paying attention to. It’s too bad more folks aren’t reading your blog to see the details and nitty gritty that they tend to miss because they aren’t paying full attention. City officials are experts in taking advantage of an ignorant populus. Lincolnites appear to be ignoring the inscription on our own State Capitol building….”The salvation of the state is watchfulness in the citizen.” If they were paying attention to where the politicians have been spending their (our) money, they would be outraged. Instead, people just seem to accept what is happening.

    Reply
  2. JoAnn Murphy
    Jul 20 2011

    What about the $1 million that Jonathan Cook wants to divert from the street maintenance fund to the parks fund? And this is as the city council is to discuss Beutler’s budget proposal. Are there no criteria by which such decisions are made i.e. what will do the most folks the most good? Every department needs money, but roads are use by tens of thousands of people driving to and from work, etc. It’s deplorable that the wheel tax money can be used to cover other needs while the streets deteriorate. How many more line item transfers have been made from various accounts? I doubt that it is just this one fund and this one time. Antelope Valley should not get one more penny from raided accounts. In addition, if LES takes over the street lights, of course, our electric bills will go up. No one is talking about the increase in sales tax that will generate for the city because there is sales tax figured on our electric bills. Where is the promised transparency? We get only glimpses of what is really happening in Lincoln. Voters in Lincoln have been trusting the city government far too long. Hopefully some day, most will wake up, find good leadership, and actually vote in elections. Mayor Beutler could give up his new office, rent out that space, and move to a less expensive site. He could cut his staff aides. He could give up his “perks.” Stop holding public meetings at times when working people cannot attend — have them around 7:00 PM — several of them. More people could attend. Having meetings in the afternoon may meet the letter of the law but is not intended to get much input from the citizens of Lincoln. How did we ever get Antelope Valley without a vote of the people? More transparency, I guess.

    Reply
  3. fedwayup
    Jul 20 2011

    Drive down the streets of Lincoln and it’s obvious the wheel tax money is going other places! Deena, i think if you keep digging we’ll all be shocked. If the citizens think there is some funny business going on, just wait. I think there’s a lot more to come!

    Reply
  4. Roger Yant
    Jul 21 2011

    Way to go readers. You are all right. JoAnn you hit the nail on the head with everything you said! I ran for City council in 05 and mayor in 07 and said then that the Antelope Valley project should be put on hold then for lack of funding and the total cost. Original estimate was I believe $180 million, then it was $224 million,God only knows what the cost is today, I believe it is way over $300 million. You see the city was counting on the majority of the funding to come from the FEDS but they backed out and I believe they only furnished around $25 million. Wheel tax is to be used on the streets, not special projects. There are three administrations who are accountable for all this, Wesley, Sang and now Beutler, lets hold them all accountable and have hearings on who is getting rich off this project. A project that has been pushed by the
    University and Kent Seacrest for many, many years.

    Reply
  5. AB
    Jul 25 2011

    Is this illegal? To divert funds in such a manner? Are there not laws-rules of how money taken in for one thing must be spent?

    Reply
    • Jul 25 2011

      city folks say they are spending the money to build roads, as promised.

      Reply
  6. J. Brown
    Jul 26 2011

    I think the increased wheel tax will go , by the back door,on the roads to and from the arena. IE. Sun Valley. I forgot about the consultants , planers and the rest that will suck money from this fund. Maybe the Mayor will have a new road czar.

    Reply

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