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Commissioners discuss revenue options for road preservation


Fri, Jun 13th, 2014
Posted in All Government

At the Fillmore County Board’s June 10 meeting County Engineer Ron Gregg expressed his concerns about the condition of the county’s infrastructure, specifically roads and bridges.

In a letter to the commissioners, he made it clear that without additional transportation funds to preserve current infrastructure, the condition of roads and bridges will continue to deteriorate.

In 2013 the legislature passed two laws to give counties the ability to raise revenue for transportation, the Wheelage Tax and the Local Option Sales Tax. It has been estimated that together the taxes could raise $1,090,800 per year for transportation projects for the county. Gregg suggested these funds could help with pavement preservation and bridge replacements on 3-digit roads. He stressed that the county does not have a lot of preservation dollars. He insisted that this revenue could help protect what we have. He encouraged the board to enact one or both of these taxes.

Gregg’s five year plan for the county sets aside $600,000 in 2014 and $500,000 in 2015 for pavement preservation. However, no funding is set aside for preservation work in 2016, 2017, and 2018. The reconstruction of CSAH 1 north of Spring Valley will use the state aid funds available during those three years.

The Wheelage Tax would be a straight $10 fee for each registered vehicle per year at least until 2018 when counties could charge up to $20 per vehicle annually. Many counties already approved this fee starting January 1, 2014. This tax would apply to most motorized vehicles including, but not limited to, passenger vehicles, pick up trucks, buses, and farm trucks. The board will have to make a decision prior to August 1 if they decide to impose this tax in 2015. It is estimated that the Wheelage Tax at $10 per vehicle would generate about $234,500 annually in Fillmore County.

The Local Option Sales Tax may be imposed as a local sales tax of up to one-half of 1 percent. Gregg noted that use of this revenue is more restricted and that a specific project must be scheduled for this money. The tax could go away if another specific project is not scheduled to use the money raised from the tax. It is estimated that Fillmore County would collect about $882,531 from a one-half cent local sales tax in 2015.

Discussion

Commissioner Randy Dahl said he has been an advocate of infrastructure preservation for a long time. He said he was in favor of enacting both sources of revenue. Dahl said the funds could help them keep some bridges open.

Commissioner Duane Bakke said the use of local money could help them maintain 3-digit roads. Gregg suggested the Wheelage Tax could help on 3-digit roads, adding that with the Wheelage Tax the project does not have to be designated.

Commissioner Tom Kaase said they have to help people understand why additional revenue is needed. Some things have been put off. He maintained that roads and bridges are like your home, if it is not maintained, more will need to be replaced in time at a higher cost.

Commissioner Marc Prestby said he wasn’t really in favor of either tax, but the legislature has been pushing the responsibility of raising revenue out into the counties. He relented that they will probably have to impose one tax or the other. Bakke said the state may take up a Transportation package next year, noting that the state hasn’t increased allotments enough to keep up with cost increases. He added that even if a Transportation package gets passed and signed into law in the future, zero funds will go to 3-digit roads.

Bakke insisted he was philosophically opposed to these tax options because the state is not paying enough for CSAH roads, but he can’t be fiscally opposed.

There seemed to be a consensus that they may at least need to approve a sales tax. The commissioners agreed by consensus to have Ron Gregg put together a Five Year Plan with estimated costs.

Gregg said the options that the county has to raise revenue if enacted can be rescinded in the future.

Other Business In Brief

•Greg Dornink, Fillmore County Ag Society, explained that the roof on the livestock pavilion at the fairgrounds was rusting and needed to be painted. Three bids had been solicited and he said it will cost about $11,000 to paint the roof. The Ag Society wants the work to be completed before this year’s fair. The county makes an annual donation to the Ag Society. Dornink said this amount is more than they normally spend. The county has helped with another larger project (the bleachers) in 2001. A one time donation of $3,000 as requested was approved and the money will come out of the county’s building infrastructure fund.

•There was consensus for a 2 percent non-union pay plan adjustment to be used for 2015 budgeting purposes.

•The board approved an application for a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Subsurface Treatment Systems Grant for $18,500. Zoning Administrator Chris Graves said the funds can be used for program costs, but not for loans.

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