Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about the extra $5 that Erie County residents will pay on their state vehicle registration. Here is some more information:
What is the $5 fee?
In December 2017, Erie County passed an ordinance that adds a $5 fee to the annual state cost of vehicle registration. While the regular vehicle registration money goes to PennDOT, all money raised by the fee will be returned to Erie County to be spent on local transportation projects.
Why did Erie County enact the fee?
Erie County had two incentives: First, the county will lose about $1.8 million in federal funding in 2020, which will reduce the county’s ability to repair our locally owned roads and bridges. In addition, PennDOT offered to give the county $2 million to be used for to repair structurally deficient locally owned bridges.
Do other counties do this?
Erie County is among 19 counties to enact the fee since the state’s Act 89 legislation, passed in 2013, made it possible to do so starting in 2015.
Who is exempt from paying the fee?
The fee applies to passenger vehicles, which includes RVs and trailers. Boats and ATVs are not part of this, as they are not registered through PennDOT. (Boats are registered through the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, and ATVs and snowmobiles are registered through the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.) The fee is only for non-exempt vehicles – residents who currently do not have to pay for vehicle registration also do not have to pay the $5 fee. The list of those exempt from paying vehicle registration is spelled out in Chapters 13 and 19 of the state Vehicle Code.
What happens to the money?
The $5 fee is expected to generate about $1.2 million each year, and every cent of that goes back to Erie County. It must be used for local transportation projects.
Who decides how it will be spent?
The Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is the governing transportation body of the county, will decide which local transportation projects will receive funding. Erie County oversees the MPO, but the group consists of officials from municipalities across the county, as well as representatives from the Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority, the Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority, the Erie Regional Airport Authority and PennDOT. For a current list of members, click here.
What is the first priority?
Structurally deficient locally owned bridges top the to-do list. In Erie County, roads and bridges are owned by either the state or by local municipalities. Bridge inspections show that about 36 percent of locally owned – that is, those owned by municipalities – are structurally deficient, and five are closed. By comparison, only 4 percent of the state-owned bridges are structurally deficient.
How will the registration fee help?
Locally owned bridges are costly for municipalities to maintain, repair and replace, so their conditions have deteriorated. The revenue for this fee will address that by giving our local cities, boroughs and townships financial support. If not for this $5 fee, municipalities would have to resort to raising property taxes (which would place the burden of repairing roads on property owners, rather than on everyone who uses the roads) or not being able to repair these aging, deteriorating bridges.