County to consider sales tax Tuesday

Published 9:02 am Monday, July 10, 2017

The Mower County board on Tuesday will consider passage of the half-cent local sales tax to fund road and bridge construction.

If the sometimes-controversial tax is approved, it would help meet an estimated $6 million a year shortfall for road and bridge funding.

The board passed the tax last year and it’s scheduled to fuel another $1.5 million a year for construction starting in 2018. But the board approved it last year with the intention of pressing the Legislature for more funding.

Email newsletter signup

The end result was disappointing: the county will see $229,940 next year, but 40 percent must be used for maintenance, leaving the county with $137,964 for road or bridge construction.

That brings the board to Tuesday, where a half-cent sales tax could bring $1.5 million to the county coffers. The board will also consider approval of an increase of the wheelage tax, from $10 to $20 for an additional $370,000; and $60,000 from aggregate tax.

It already dedicated $400,000 a year in wind production tax revenue, $137,964 in the legislative funds  and about $3.3 million would come from basic construction allotments.

To date, 52 counties, including Mower, have the wheelage tax and 30 have the half-cent sales tax. But most nearby counties have already implemented the half-cent sales.

Not all agree with the tax. During a public hearing, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sandy Forstner spoke on behalf of local business against the tax, arguing it would raise Austin’s current 7.37 cent sales tax — of that, 6.875 cents is a state sales tax and the remaining half-cent is levied by the city — to near 8 percent, which would push customers away from local businesses toward internet shopping.

But rural residents spoke in favor of the tax.