A parking services vehicle equipped with a license-plate reading camera system used to catch wheel tax scofflaws.

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.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Reid’s got the incentives backwards: If 20% of Evanston residents don’t pay the wheel tax by the deadline, then extending the deadline by either (or both) 5 days or 21 days w/o paying a penalty is certainly not going to encourage that 20% to pay it either. Frankly, Evanston residents are reminded for months ahead of time that the wheel tax is due on a certain date. And the 80% who do pay on-time do so because they do not want to be penalized and have to pay any more than they have to for the Evanston wheel tax. Furthermore, increasing the wheel tax by $5 doesn’t make sense either because you are then making the 80% who already pay on-time pay even more for already paying on-time while the 20% who don’t pay the wheel tax still won’t pay it no matter how much more time you give them, so you’re penalizing those who are already following the rules set down in our community and not penalizing those who are clearly and already breaking the rules, and that makes no sense whatsoever. Those are both disincentives. Penalizing those who already pay on-time AND not penalizing those who don’t pay on-time are two wrong incentives. Two wrongs do not make a right.

  2. Another week, another wild Devon Reid proposal that seems like a waste of everyone’s time.

  3. I agree with these two posted comments and am grateful. I was completely confused as to how this suggestion makes any sense at all!

  4. Why should anyone pay the wheel tax if there are no penalties if you don’t pay on time?! When you finally get ticketed, then you pay the tax. Sounds like it would then cost Evanston much more to enforce the rule…

  5. Whatsa matter, Devon? You or someone you know didn’t pay their wheel tax?

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