Bethlehem Press

Friday, November 17, 2017

Additional $5 vehicle fee considered

Tuesday, April 18, 2017 by MARK RECCEK Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

Those living in Lehigh County may soon be required to pay an additional $5 for each non-exempt vehicle registration.

The board of commissioners at its April 12 meeting discussed a motion authorizing the fee. Included in the approved motion is the establishment of a Municipal Transportation Infrastructure Program. The board will vote on the bill at the April 26 meeting.

Commissioner Dan Hartzell, co-sponsor for the bill, along with Commissioner Percy Dougherty, lauded the motion.

“I like the proposal,” Hartzell said. “You call it a user fee, some people balk. I don’t see it as a tax.”

Hartzell stressed anyone who owns a vehicle should be able to afford the additional $5 fee.

“It’s hard to argue, I just can’t afford this,” he said.

The money, Hartzell said, will also help the county.

“It’s certainly a boon to the [Lehigh] county,” he said, stressing the fee will bring additional monies into the county.

According to county Executive Tom Muller, per Act 89, 13 counties since 2015 have enacted the fee. The money, Muller said, is supposed to go toward infrastructure, such as bridges, street lighting and curb cuts.

The additional $5 fee, Muller said, will generate about $1.5 million to the county.

“Could we use $1.5 million for a while, yes,” Muller said, with the county matching $750,000 per year for three years.

Muller also said, if the county builds a “pot of money, we could make things happen.”

The motion gives the municipalities an opportunity to use money they currently do not have for projects, Muller said.

Commissioner Michael Schware spoke against the fee.

“We can say it’s a fee, it’s a tax hike,” he said. “I hope to God we vote it down in two weeks.”

Commissioner Brad Osborne also expressed reservations with the fee, stressing a lack of transparency. According to Osborne, the proposal was not discussed with the board in advance.

The fee would not be implemented within three to six months.

The current vehicle registration per vehicle is $36. Registration will jump to $41 per vehicle.

The board is scheduled to meet again 7:30 p.m. April 26 in the Lehigh County Government Center, 17 S.7th St.