ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Renville County seeking public input before deciding on local option sales tax for roads

The Renville County Board of Commissioners expressed support for the optional tax to meet road needs.

071021.N.WCT.CR116Closed
Renville County is looking at a possible local option sales tax to meet funding needs for road work.
We are part of The Trust Project.

OLIVIA — Renville County’s Board of Commissioners is looking for public input before deciding whether to adopt a local option sales tax.

The commissioners at their meeting June 21 in Olivia expressed support for a local option sales tax as a means to address road needs in the county. They agreed to formally decide at their upcoming meeting on starting the process to adopt the tax, with the intention of holding an Aug. 9 public hearing.

Board Chairman Randy Kramer, who originally urged the commissioners to consider the tax, said he remains “partially” in favor of the proposal. He emphasized that public response at the hearing would help him decide whether or not to support its adoption.

More on Renville County roads
The Renville County Board of Commissioners opened discussions on a local option sales tax to raise funds for transportation needs. The west central Minnesota county has bonded to increase road funding, but it is not keeping up with needs.
Renville County has issued three bonds in the past nine years to accelerate road work beyond what state of Minnesota and federal funding sources make possible. The commissioners are concerned that, despite the effort, the county remains behind on what's needed.
The Renville County Board of Commissioners is seeking federal funds for an estimated $2,656,900 improvement to a portion of Renville County Road 21 serving the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative. The county was awarded $200,000 in state funds which will be applied toward a 20% local share of the project.
State aid is not keeping up with the needs in Renville County. The County Board of Commissioners awarded a $13.8 million bond for road construction needs.

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

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

ADVERTISEMENT

As the operator of a business, Snow said he was initially “not on board” with a local sales tax option. But as a commissioner, he said he is well aware of the county’s needs to raise more funds for its road needs.

Snow and other commissioners said they have received calls from constituents urging more road work. Those callers also tend to understand the challenge of raising funds for those needs, the commissioners said.

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

The county is in a “very comfortable spot” in terms of its debt capacity, Landon Padrnos, finance coordinator, told the commissioners in a review of the county’s financial status. “We’re well within any debt limit we have.”

But the commissioners said they are concerned about the additional burden on the property tax rolls. The county’s overall property tax levy has been rising.

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

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

The funds raised by a local option sales tax fall a long way short of meeting actual road funding needs, Commissioner Dave Hamre noted. “A drop in the bucket, but in the right direction,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

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

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at tcherveny@wctrib.com or by phone at 320-214-4335.
What to read next
The funeral service for Anthony "Tony" Schmoll will be July 7. He died in an accident at his home north of Willmar.
The men were killed when their motorcycles collided with a truck.
Area funerals scheduled through July 9, 2022
The Legislature failed to approve a transportation bill this session, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation is still assessing what the impact will be in terms of accessing federal dollars and inflationary losses for delaying projects.