By Kristen Miller
MEEKER COUNTY, MN After the wheelage tax was rejected at its previous meeting, the Meeker County Board agreed to more discussion regarding the $10 vehicle tax at Tuesday’s meeting.
Upon the request of further information, the board heard from Ron Mortenson, highway engineer, who provided the seven-year construction plan from 2013 to 2019.
Mortenson explained that a road is designed to last about 20 years, depending on the situation and usage. After 50 years, roads need to be regraded and often widened.
He estimated that grading and paving costs $675,000 a mile.
“The costs have gone up, but the funding has not,” Mortenson said about the state and federal dollars coming into the county transportation fund.
In addition to that, Mortenson said that only half of the County State Aid Highway (CSAH) roads are eligible for federal funding through grants and that the legislature is also discussing reducing the amount counties get to fund local projects.
“I cannot maintain the county state aid system totally from the state gas tax as it’s funded now,” Mortenson said following the meeting. The wheelage tax would’ve been another source for him. He also noted that there had been talks at the state level of increasing the gas tax, but that wasn’t accepted.
Commissioner Mike Huberty made a motion to reconsider the $10 wheelage tax, which if imposed, would generate approximately $225,000 annually for roads and bridges.
“I think it’s a worthwhile need,” Huberty said, with Commissioner Bryan Larson seconded the motion saying he had heard mainly positive feedback.
Commissioner Dale Fenrich told the board that he conducted a random survey of 200 people to get taxpayer input on the proposed tax.
“If they were in favor of anything it was the sales tax, because it’s project-driven,” Fenrich said. A half-percent sales tax was also part of the previous discussion as a means of generating funds for roads and bridges. If a wheelage tax was imposed, the money wouldn’t be designated to any particular project, but be added to the transportation fund.
“I feel more strongly about not having it than before when I voted against it,” he said.
Commissioner Mike Housman agreed that the people he talked with were not in support of the wheelage tax. He did agree, however, that the county was in need of funding for roads.
Commissioner Beth Oberg said it was just poor timing to make this decision with the budget in its preliminary stages and it was noted determined if this would soften the levy.
In a 3-2 vote, the wheelage tax was defeated.
Wright County also brought the wheelage tax to a vote last week and it was defeated 4-1.