Board approves transportation funding proposal
The Carver County Board at its May 2 meeting passed a resolution to use new revenue sources to address a $104 budget shortfall and fund road repairs and construction projects over the next 20 years.
Commissioner Randy Maluchnik made the motion to approve a resolution to use proceeds from a new half-percent local option sales tax, a $20 excise tax on vehicle purchases, and an increase in the wheelage tax from the current $10 per vehicle to $20 per vehicle to fund specific transportation projects.
The motion was seconded by Vice Chair James Ische and supported by Commissioner Gayle Degler. Board Chair Tim Lynch and Commissioner Tom Workman voted against the transportation proposal.
The issue was first brought before the Board in January when Public Works Division Director Lyndon Robjent said the County lacked the funds needed to needed to complete long-term projects designed to improve traffic flow and safety and lower congestion.
He explained the State Highway Investment Plan does not include any funds to expand State roads in the county. In addition, the Metropolitan Council’s regional solicitation process for distributing federal funds focuses on transit, non-motorized vehicles, and preservation of roads and bridges, as opposed to expanding and building new roads.
While the County’s list of proposed projects over the next 30 years topped the $1 billion mark, Robjent said he staff pared the list down to those most deemed most critical for completion over the next 20 years.
“We’ve selected 26 high priority projects in the county,” Robjent said. “In order to fund that plan, we need an additional $104 million.”
Over the next 20 years, the sales tax and excise tax is expected to generate $83 million, and the wheelage tax is expected to generate $21 million. County officials say generating local funds will make Carver County more competitive when it comes to garnering federal and state funding.
“The idea is not to let the state and the feds off the hook. The idea is to leverage the funding,” said Carver County Administrator David Hemze, who referenced Scott County’s success in using the same approach to win $40 million in federal funds for a local road project.
State law limits proceeds from the transportation sales tax to projects listed in the resolution, and the Board stipulated proceeds from the excise tax and wheelage tax increase would also be limited to those projects. The Board must terminate the tax when the revenues raised are sufficient to finance the projects referenced in the resolution authorizing the tax.
The half-percent in the sales tax equates to 50 cents in tax on a $100 purchase. Necessities such as clothing, legal drugs, and unprepared food (with the exception of candy and soda) are exempt from sales tax, as are newspapers. All of the other metro counties currently have a transportation or transit sales tax.
Prior to voting on the issue, the proposal was presented at township board meetings and to all 11 cities in the county. The Board used an online forum and a public hearing on April 18 to gather input from residents and listened to residents comment on the proposal prior to the vote at the May 2 meeting.