Wheelage Tax to increase beginning Jan. 1

Carver County drivers will soon be seeing a slight increase in their Wheelage Tax.
A new state law now requires that counties either increase the wheelage tax to $10 per eligible registered vehicle, or eliminate the tax. On July 23, the Carver County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 (with commissioner Tom Workman voting against) to allow the increase in the wheelage tax from its current $5 to $10, beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
The “yes” voting commissioners pointed out that the wheelage tax is more of a “user fee” for the roads in the county.
If a resident doesn’t drive, he or she doesn’t pay the tax. This tax is an alternative to an increase in property taxes.
Workman called the increased tax a “legislative trap,” by forcing counties to choose between the $10 tax, where the money goes directly to the county, or eliminating the tax and thus eliminating extra funding for projects.
Since the current Wheelage Tax, which is $5 per eligible registered vehicle, went into effect in 2008, Carver County has been able to pay a portion of the debt service for multiple road improvement projects throughout the county.
Public Works Division Director Lyndon Robjent said the increase tax will double the current levy from $350,000 to approximately $700,000. He said the increase would be used first for preservation projects and then for construction and safety projects, all within the county limits.
In the past, the money has been used for road and bridge projects, paying off the debt service, and bonding projects.
Robjent presented the Board with examples of how the extra funding could be applied to projects that are set to be programmed in 2014 including repairing portions of County State Aid highways 10, 17, 33, and 34 as well as county roads 123 and 140.
Also at the July 23 meeting, the Board passed an eminent domain resolution for 10 properties along the CSAH 18 roadway construction project that requires additional right-of-ways by the owners. Bidding for the project will begin in January 2014, with construction slated to start in the spring. In order to keep the project on schedule, the county must have legal access to the properties by the end of October, thus the eminent domain resolution.
In conjunction with St. Mark’s Church in New Germany, the Carver County Board agreed to share the cost of reconstructing the church parking lot. The lot, and the church, is located on Carver County Regional Rail Authority property and is along the Dakota Rail Regional Trail.
Along with church activities, the lot will be available for trail parking and other public parking needs. The church and the Carver County Regional Rail Authority will each pay 25 percent of the cost to resurface the parking lot, while funding from the New Germany Road Reconstruction Project and compensation for contractor wear and tear will cover the rest.
Four different individuals, all representing the Minnesota Inter-County Association, presented legislative updates to the Board on July 16.
Keith Carlson, Executive Director of MICA, said the deficit problem had been solved and highlighted the taxes that increased. County program aid is expected to increase, and spending for education already has. Property tax refunds were the largest area of relief, sales tax was eliminated for counties and cities, and there are restrictive levy limits for 2014. Tax increases, a bonding bill, and transportation funding are likely the items to be revisited at the beginning of next session, according to Carlson.
The next meeting of the Carver County Board of Commissioners will be Aug. 6 at 9 a.m.

Contact Melissa Marohl at melissa.marohl@ecm-inc.com

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