City: Wheel taxes won’t go to Antelope Valley anymore
A few years ago, I followed the money flowing into the Antelope Valley Creek to create Lincoln’s Antelope Valley Project, and was surprised to see how much wheel tax revenue was being diverted to the massive public works spectacle in downtown Lincoln.
That was never part of the original plan, but it appeared as though the city was looking everywhere it could for funds to pay for the $246 million project — whose original price tag was advertised at $175 million (although there was a tiny footnote that said * in 1999 dollars).
Local taxpayers were told they’d only have to kick in about $35 million for the project — but by 2008 we’d already spent $68 million. The city got more federal money than expected, but less state money than projected.
And so they turned to the so-called wheel tax and since 1995 the city has spent $28.6 million in wheel tax dollars on Antelope Valley, according to figures recently compiled by the city. I believe that’s part of the reason Lincoln’s roads have deteriorated quickly in recent years — that money could have toward maintaining roads, but instead it was used to build massive new roads in Antelope Valley.
However, the city employee who pulled those figures together for me added, “No other wheel tax dollars will be spent on the AV project.” I’d say that’s probably because Mayor Chris Beutler is instituting a wheel tax increase, and the last time the city increased the tax, city officials reneged on promises to use the money to 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.
Guess what year the wheel tax was increased? 1995. Guess where $28 million in wheel tax dollars have gone since 1995? Antelope Valley.
I haven’t heard any specific promises being made about how the additional wheel tax money will be used this time around. Maybe somebody learned a lesson about making promises at city hall.