Tricounty News

Stearns County passes wheelage tax

At its July 30 meeting, Stearns County’s Board of Commissioners adopted a wheelage tax to pay for road construction projects. A wheelage tax is a $10 per vehicle surcharge added to car tab purchases, with some vehicles being exempt such as motorcycles, recreational trailers, classic vehicles, or trailers.

The new tax will take effect Jan. 1, 2014, and the vote to adopt it was unanimous. Benton and Sherburne counties have already voted to adopt it.

Stearns County considered this option as it struggles to keep up with road maintenance. The tax will fill gaps in road funding when other current revenue sources, state and federal aid are not expected to significantly increase in the future.

The State Legislature this spring enacted laws that allow outstate Minnesota counties to issue a wheelage tax. Metro counties have had the option to levy the wheelage tax since 2007.

It is estimated the tax could generate an additional $1.5 million a year in Stearns County. Law requires all dollars go directly to building roads and bridges. For Stearns County’s road construction program, it could result in an average of three additional road projects a year, with as many as seven additional projects in 2017. 

For the tax to be implemented by 2014, Stearns County must notify the Minnesota Department of Public Safety by Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013. Commissioners have discussed the issue at June and July meetings, and voted to adopt it at the July 30 meeting.

Citizen feedback was sparse, and nearly evenly split with 19 for it and 18 against. 

The state legislature also extended the option for greater Minnesota counties to enact a transportation tax of up to half percent It is unlikely Stearns County would pursue this source of revenue.