Catasauqua Press

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Lehigh County discusses additional $5 fee for vehicle registration

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 by MARK RECCEK Special to The Press in Local News

Residents of Lehigh County may soon be required to pay an additional $5 for each nonexempt 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,” he 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 boom to [Lehigh County],” he said, stressing the fee will bring into the county additional monies.

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 awhile? 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.”

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 be implemented within three to six months.

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