Renville County seeks public input before deciding local option sales tax for roads – West Central Tribune


OLIVIA – The Renville County Board of Commissioners is seeking public input before deciding whether to adopt a local option sales tax.

At their June 21 meeting in Olivia, commissioners expressed support for a local option sales tax as a way to meet the county’s road needs. They agreed to formally decide at their next meeting on initiating the process to pass the levy, with the intention of holding a public hearing on August 9.

Board chairman Randy Kramer, who initially urged commissioners to consider the tax, said he remained “partially” in favor of the proposal. He stressed that the public’s response at the hearing would help him decide whether or not to support its adoption.

Other commissioners also expressed some reluctance to an additional tax, but also said they would support a local option sales tax due to their concern to meet the county’s road needs.

“Roads, roads, roads,” Commissioner Greg Snow said.

As a business operator, Snow said he was initially “disagree” with a local sales tax option. But as commissioner, he said he was well aware of the county’s need to raise more funds for its highway needs.

Snow and other commissioners said they received calls from constituents asking for more roadwork. These callers also tend to understand the challenge of raising funds for these needs, the commissioners said.

The county issued $13.8 million in bonds in 2020 to help meet road improvement needs. These bonds will be retired with property tax revenues.

The county is in a “very comfortable position” in terms of debt capacity, Finance Coordinator Landon Padrnos told commissioners during a review of the county’s financial situation. “We are well below any debt limit we have.”

But commissioners have expressed concern about the added burden on property tax rolls. The county’s overall property tax has increased.

The county currently collects $190,000 a year from a tax on wheels, according to information provided to commissioners. The Minnesota Department of Revenue said a 0.5% local option sales tax would have generated $330,000 for Renville County based on actual 2019 taxable sales.

If a local option sales tax is passed, commissioners must specify a road scheme for the funds. Discussions focused on County Road 11 west of its junction with US Highway 71.

Funds raised by a local option sales tax fall far short of the real road funding needs, Commissioner Dave Hamre noted. “A drop in the ocean, but in the right direction,” he said.

Renville County would join its neighboring counties of Kandiyohi and McLeod in collecting both a wheeled sales tax and a local option sales tax if approved. Other counties in the area, including Swift, Lac qui Parle and Pope, currently levy a wheel tax. Chippewa, Meeker and Yellow Medicine counties are among 14 counties in the state that do not collect any of the optional taxes, according to information from the Minnesota Counties Association.


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