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Published July 16, 2013, 09:28 PM

Polk County authorizes wheelage tax

CROOKSTON — Polk County commissioners authorized a new “wheelage” tax Tuesday that will cost residents $10 per vehicle owned. The tax will take effect Jan. 1.

By: Will Beaton, Grand Forks Herald

CROOKSTON — Polk County commissioners authorized a new “wheelage” tax Tuesday that will cost residents $10 per vehicle owned.

The tax will take effect Jan. 1.

Funds raised with the new tax will be put toward the maintenance or repair of county highways. The county estimates the tax would raise $304,000 from the 30,400 vehicles that may be taxed.

County Commissioner Don Diedrich said at Tuesday’s meeting that he favors reducing current funding for highway maintenance in light of the extra tax dollars. The money saved could be used for other projects.

Commissioners Craig Buness and Warren Strandell disagreed, saying the new funds should be added to the current maintenance budget.

At the end of the meeting, the board voted unanimously in favor of the tax, deciding to discuss the possibility of reducing current highway funding at a later time.

The board had until Aug. 1 to decide whether to pass the tax. Beginning in 2018, Minnesota counties that have adopted the wheelage tax will be given the power to raise the tax to $20 per vehicle.

Given the choice between collecting the tax directly and having the state collect the tax on the county’s behalf, the board showed interest in giving the responsibility to the state — as other counties that have adopted the tax have decided to do.

“The one good thing about the wheelage tax is that it stays local,” said Buness, noting that local highways will benefit from the tax.

He called the tax a “user-fee” because those paying to maintain county roads will the ones driving on the roads.

Wheelage tax impact

A $10 wheelage tax is expected to fetch northwest Minnesota counties thousands of dollars for road repairs if the counties choose to levy the tax.

Here’s how it would affect each county, according to the Association of Minnesota Counties. Not all the counties have decided to start a wheelage tax; they have until Aug. 1 to notify the state if they do so.

* Kittson County: 5,500 estimated vehicles subject to taxation; $55,000 estimated revenue.

* Marshall County: 11,500 vehicles; $115,000.

* Norman County: 7,600 vehicles; $76,000.

* Pennington County: 13,700 vehicles; $137,000.

* Polk County: 30,400 vehicles; $304,000.

* Red Lake County: 4,800 vehicles; $48,000.

* Roseau County: 17,200 vehicles; $172,000.

Vehicles subject to the tax are based on the address listed for the statement for the state vehicle tax, but owners can notify the state if the vehicle is kept outside the county, say at a lake cabin.

Motorcycles, mopeds, trailers, semitrailers, vehicles that aren’t subject to registration, such as collector vehicles and state vehicles are exempt from the wheelage tax.

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