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Kandiyohi County extends local option sales tax for road projects

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners extends the transportation local option sales tax for another seven years to help fund continued maintenance and preservation of the county road system.

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The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners approved extending the transportation local option sales tax through 2028. This opens the door to more road and bridge projects to be completed. Stock Art / West Central Tribune

WILLMARKandiyohi County will continue to collect revenue from a half-cent increase in the county's sales tax for road and bridge projects after the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved extending the tax for another seven years, through 2028.

"We are asking for seven years, 11 projects, 40 miles and two bridges," said Mel Odens, Kandiyohi County Public Works director, during the public hearing on the extension, held during Tuesday's County Board meeting. "Which amounts to $22 million, a little over $3 million a year."

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Kandiyohi County Public Works director Mel Odens, shown in a January 2018 file photo, presented at the public hearing on Nov. 16, 2021 about the proposed extension of the half-cent sales tax in the county to fund transportation projects. The county board approved the extension. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo

The current local option sales tax, approved in 2017, began collection in April 2018 and is set to raise $13 million for four specific road projects. Odens said if collections continue at the current pace, the tax will expire in the second quarter of 2022. To make sure there is no gap in funding, Odens wanted to make sure the extension was approved and in place prior to any potential expiration.

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"We need sustainable funding if you want sustainable construction," Odens said.

The sales tax revenue helps keep the county's road and bridge funding at a level that makes it possible for them to continue a maintenance and repair program for its hundreds of miles of roads. While the county receives both federal and state aid for transportation work, it is not enough to keep up with demand, nor can it be used for all types of projects. Odens said it is important to maintain roads while they are still in good shape instead of repairing a road only when it is in the greatest need.

"You can do four times the work for the same dollar," Odens said.

The 11 sales tax projects being proposed to be funded by the extension are:

  • County Road 7 from U.S. Highway 12 to state Highway
  • A bridge on County Road 1 east of Raymond
  • County Road 5 from state Highway 40 to Highway 12
  • County Road 23 from County Road 5 to state Highway 23
  • County Road 41 from County Road 23 to the fairgrounds and from County Road 24 to County Road 25
  • County Road 7 from Highway 40 to Highway 12
  • County Road 10/39 from County Road 2 to County Road 102
  • County Road 6 from Highway 23 to state Highway 55
  • County Road 27 from County Road 7 to Country Road 1, including a bridge
  • County Road 3 from County Road 7 to County Road 1
  • County Road 27 from County Road 1 to County Road 5.

"This is good long-range planning and this is going to save money," said Commissioner Corky Berg.

The state of Minnesota gives counties the power to pass a local options sales tax of no more than a half-cent for specific transportation projects without having to get voter approval. Instead, all that is needed is a public hearing and an approved resolution from the county board.

"This is a tool that has been given to us," said Commissioner Roger Imdieke. "Partially because we haven't gotten the necessary funding from the state of Minnesota."

The only member of the public to comment at the hearing Tuesday was Aaron Backman, executive director of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

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"I fully support the extension of the sales tax. I think one of the most important things a county can do is have a strong road network and make that investment," Backman said. "Industry, agriculture, commuters all depend on those roads."

The extended sales tax increase will continue to be added to all taxable purchases made in Kandiyohi County. This does not include things such as clothes and food.

While many of the commissioners spoke of their aversion to raising taxes, they all supported the extension of the sales tax and the importance of keeping the county's roads in good shape. A benefit of a local option sales tax is everyone who shops in Kandiyohi County will pay it, not just those who live in the county, as they would if property taxes were increased to pay for the road projects.

"It is imperative we maintain these roads," said Commissioner Rollie Nissen. "If you spend $100 in Willmar on a taxable item, it costs you 50 cents to maintain the roads that got you here in the first place."

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A map showing both the Kandiyohi County transit projects funded by the current sales tax (in blue) as well as the proposed projects to be funded by the extended sales tax (in red). Contributed / Kandiyohi County Public Works

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