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

·3 min read

Jun. 23—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.

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.

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.

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.