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Kandiyohi County will levy $10 per vehicle for local roads, starting Jan. 1

WILLMAR - Starting in January, Kandiyohi County residents will pay an additional $10 tax to the county when they renew their vehicle registration.

The Kandiyohi County Board approved the $10 wheelage tax Tuesday. The board decided to have the state collect the tax when residents buy new license tabs. The fee does not apply to some vehicles, like motorcycles, recreational vehicles, trailers, collector vehicles and tax-exempt vehicles.

The tax on most vehicles registered in the county is expected to raise about $400,000 a year. To have the state collect the tax with registration renewals, counties must adopt the tax by Aug. 1.

The 2013 Legislature gave counties across the state permission to adopt the tax to pay for local road improvements. Previously, only counties in the Twin Cities area were able to levy the tax.

The Legislature also gave counties the ability to levy a 0.5 percent sales tax, but the board did not discuss that option on Tuesday.

The new local funding mechanisms were put in place even though the Legislature did not develop a comprehensive transportation plan for the state.

County Administrator Larry Kleindl said he hoped a full transportation plan can be approved next year. "The governor and the Legislature need to look at the big picture of transportation in the state," Kleindl said. "We need a four-lane highway completed in our area."

The ability to raise more revenue will help counties address road funding that has been stagnant for the past six years, said County Public Works Director Gary Danielson.

County commissioners had discussed the wheelage tax a few weeks ago and said they wanted to hear from their constituents.

Commissioner Roger Imdieke said he heard from people for and against the new tax. When he discussed the situation with them, all agreed that the county has fallen behind in road repair, and they also agreed they would prefer a wheelage tax over an addition to the county's property tax levy.

For Commissioner Jim Butterfield, safety is of paramount concern. "For $10 per vehicle, if that will help keep our people safe in Kandiyohi County, then that's a good thing," he said.

People who contacted him were disappointed that the state wasn't addressing overall transportation needs, Butterfield said.

"We in rural Minnesota have been looking for ways to provide extra funding for transportation," said Chairman Harlan Madsen. "I think it's a good tool."

Some people asked what would keep the county from using the money for other purposes, said Commissioner Dean Shuck.

Madsen said it's required to be used for road and bridges, and "my commitment in support of the wheelage tax is it be used for local roads."

Commissioner Doug Reese said he had also spoken with people opposed to the tax, but he has been in favor of it.

"I think this gives us better control," he said.

Danielson talked to the commissioners about the types of roads that would be eligible for the new funding - primarily county roads that are not included in the state aid funding system. After their meeting, Danielson took the commissioners on a tour around the county to look at some of the roads the new tax could help repair.

The county has about 215 miles of roads, he said, and only about 37 miles are paved.

Many of the gravel roads have not been repaired for many years, Danielson said. The funding will allow the County Board to address such things as dangerous curves in some roads and also improve roads so they can be turned over to townships for maintenance.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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