Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Staff reports
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

County approves .5% sales tax

 


In January, Pine County shoppers will begin paying a half cent on every dollar to help pay for the roads on which they drive. A public hearing was held on Tuesday, August 16, at the Pine County Courthouse on the proposal of a half-percent increase in sales tax in the county. The tax was unanimously approved by the county board.

The original resolution contained an additional $20 vehicle excise tax, but the board eliminated that language before its passing. A resolution to eliminate the wheelage tax was also approved.

County Engineer Mark LeBrun opened the hearing expressing the need for the increase in sales tax. He stated the reasoning for an increase is primarily due to the lack of legislative funding that was promised but didn’t come through. He added that the wheelage tax was a temporary way to secure road funding, but would not be enough to maintain road replacement and maintenance.

The sales tax would extend over a 10-year period or up to when the $8.45 million worth of estimated road projects are completed, whichever comes first. The $8.45 million includes the estimated $800,000 collected by the wheelage tax before it is terminated on December 31. He added that a few years ago the Legislature gave the counties the authority to implement a half percent sales tax.

The tax would apply only to what is currently taxed via sales tax in Minnesota. LeBrun gave the example that consumers will pay 50 cents per every $100 spent in the county.

LeBrun presented the options of keeping the wheelage tax, which was approved last year, raising property taxes and dropping the wheelage tax, or doing nothing. “There are numerous road projects on our system that are not state aid eligible,” said LeBrun. “We have been told that ‘this is the year’ from the Legislature, but that hasn’t happened. It doesn’t seem like the Legislature is able to get through some of the issues of mixing public transit and rural roads.”

“We are one of those counties with an interstate and recreational property and get a lot of visitors. This allows us to bring in revenue,” said LeBrun. “Those dollars would otherwise be somewhere else. If you took all the people that shop around Walmart and the casino, I would say it’s a high percentage of people that live outside of the county. They all drive on our roads and now would contribute, and it’s something the Legislature has provided for us. Counties I have talked to are really pleased with it and say it’s worked well, and I haven’t received any negative feedback from the community.” He added that with fuel prices being low, it would be best to do projects as soon as possible.

“The only other option we have is to raise property taxes,” he added. “It is never fun to see taxes go up, but I don’t see another way.”

 

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