City Council Monday is scheduled to consider a proposal from Ald. Devon Reid (8th) to waive penalties for failing to pay the city’s wheel tax if an offender pays up within a week of being caught.
Officials say only about 80% of the vehicles that the state says are registered to Evanston currently pay the wheel tax.
The city enforces the wheel tax using license-plate reading technology in parking enforcement vehicles that cruise city streets and parking lots.
Therefore cars parked in private garages and not on the street in the city can potentially avoid being cited for failing to pay the tax.
The wheel tax rate now is $85 a year for passenger cars.
The current $60 fine for getting caught for not paying the tax serves as an incentive to pay the tax rather than risk a ticket — which would be removed under Reid’s plan. He’s also calling for eliminating an additional $25 late penalty for failing to settle a wheel tax ticket within 21 days.
Without that fine and late fee, car owners would be incentivized to play “catch me if you can” with the wheel tax requirement.
Another proposal from Reid would increase the basic wheel tax rate from $85 to $90 a year — with the extra money used to fund implementation of the city’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan.
In a memo to council members, Acting Parking Division Manager Lukasz Tatara says staff is concerned that boosting the wheel tax rate $5 in a single year could cause a burden for low income residents and suggests phasing in the increase at a rate of $1 a year over five years.
The last wheel tax increase approved by the City Council took effect in 2020 and boosted the passenger car rate $10, from $75 to $85.
The city is budgeted to generate $2.9 million in revenue from the wheel tax this year. A $5 rate increase would likely generate somewhat less than $200,000 a year in additional revenue for environmental projects.