WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A move is underway to repeal or modify a controversial vehicle registration fee in Luzerne County.
It was approved by county leaders last year to raise money for bridge and road repairs. The county manager says the five dollars per vehicle fee is a small price to pay for better roads and bridges. But opponents of the fee say it is a major deal for some folks, especially those living on a fixed income.
“People are already up in arms. I stop at different places. They are really peeved about it, they really are,” Angelo Menichini of Pittston said.
Menichini says the five dollars a year vehicle registration fee won’t break him but it does go on a growing pile of fees and taxes.
“When you’re a retired senior citizen you conserve. All of a sudden you got taxes. Everything is up. Your school taxes went up. All these property taxes,” Menichini said.
76-year-old Frances Pudim agrees.
“You know when you are on a fixed income, you have to figure out your budget every week and when you go over it you’re in trouble. More coming in,” Pudim said.
“My goal is to actually eliminate the fee,” Luzerne County Council member Stephen J. Urban said.
Urban was elected to city council. He insists the fee is not needed.
“I spoke to a member of the state and he said we can actually take general fund dollars and actually make it toward the match of $2 million,” Urban said.
Urban is talking about matching state funds that Luzerne County received for work on bridges. County Manager David Pedri says that’s the first time he’s heard about that possibility. He’s not sure that is the case.
“The state is matching the first $2 million. What the county receives goes towards bridges. So far we received about $1 million from the fee. The state will be matching a portion of that,” Pedri said.
Pedri sent Eyewitness News before and after photos of some of the projects that were done as a result of the vehicle registration fee including Blythburn Road in Rice Township, Chase Road in Jackson Township and Bridge Road in Hollenback Township.
“If the fee goes away the county still has 128 miles of road and 300 bridges. We have to maintain these and we have to find the funding source to do these things,” Pedri said.
Urban says he is confident that other funding sources can be found within the budget that could eliminate the vehicle registration fee without raising taxes.
The county council is expected to consider an ordinance to repeal the fee at is February meeting. There are four new members on the council and it remains unclear on how the vote could go on the issue.