LINCOLN – The City of Waverly, along with the City of Hickman and Lancaster County, recently released a report proposing a wheel tax to cover a major financial shortfall.

A county task force estimated the annual shortfall at $9 million. The report claims that there are “numerous bridges and roads in critical need of repair or replacement.”

A wheel tax, similar to the one in place in Lincoln, would be paired with a county-wide sales tax the report says.

Lancaster County Engineer Pam Dingman commissioned a study on two roadways with an expectation to see a large increase in drivers.

One of those roads was 148th Street, from Amberly Road to Old Cheney Road. The report expects daily traffic to increase from 5,850 to 15,400.

If the east beltway is not completed in the next 20 years, the study concluded that steps need to be taken to ensure safe travel along that northern stretch of 148th Street.

Those improvements would cost nearly $58 million.

The existing sources of funding would not be sufficient to handle those costs, Dingman said in the report.

In order to meet those monetary needs a committee was formed to find ways to cover the shortfall. The committee included Waverly Mayor Mike Werner, City Administrator Stephanie Fischer and five officials from Lancaster County and the City of Hickman.

The committee recommends that the three entities (Waverly, Hickman and the County) form the “Safe Roads Joint Public Agency.”

According to the 1999 Nebraska state law making them possible, joint public agencies permit local governmental units to make efficient use of their taxing authority and other powers by enabling cooperation.

The JPA would have vehicle fees similar to the City of Lincoln’s vehicle fees. The proposed schedule shows the only variation is on farm plated vehicles, which would all be lower than the City of Lincoln’s current taxes.

The other 10 incorporated cities and villages in the county would need to opt in to the JPA.

The proposal includes the formation of a board. Both Waverly and Hickman would get two votes on the board, with three going to the county. The report does not account for any other representation on the board should any of the other incorporated villages or cities in the county choose to take part.

This proposal is still in its infancy. The study recommends that if public and governing body discussions are generally positive that the groups should work with legal counsel to develop a draft. This draft would go before the public and legislators to be reviewed before the JPA agreement is signed.

The tax would not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2020 and would be collected by the county on behalf of the JPA.

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