As you may have seen in news reports here and here, Blue Earth County Commissioners are considering passing a new .5% sales tax to fund transportation projects in the county. Now is the time for businesses and the community to weigh in with their thoughts on this proposed tax. Below you’ll find neutral information about the tax and why it is being considered along with various options for how you can weigh in with Commissioners on this issue.
Two years ago, the Minnesota Legislature passed legislation authorizing individual counties to enact two new revenue sources to specifically finance transportation projects: A wheelage tax of $10 on vehicles kept in their county as well as up to a .5% county-wide sales tax. Since that time, as a result of inaction at the state level on passing a comprehensive transportation funding package, most counties in southern Minnesota with larger cities have implemented one or both options, including Nicollet County which just passed the wheelage tax. The Blue Earth County Board of Commissioners is actively considering these revenue options, though they are focusing on the sales tax.
According to information provided by the county, Blue Earth County faces an annual funding gap of $4.2 million to maintain its current 430 mile County Highway system. There are also unmet maintenance needs for the 304 mile County Road system. A .5% sales tax would generate approximately $5.6 million annually – and cost the average household about $81. All of that money would be spent exclusively on a designated set of transportation projects in both the urban Mankato area and rural areas of the county. The county is leaning towards the sales tax as a funding source for three reasons: 1) It shares the tax burden with individuals using the county transportation system who may not be county residents; 2) it utilizes a funding mechanism that targets “non-essential” purchases, since purchases of food and clothing and other essential items are excluded from sales tax; and 3) it minimizes the tax burden for transportation funding on property tax payers – to generate the equivalent revenue that a .5% sales tax generates, county property taxes would need to increase 20%.
How to Make Your Voice Heard
There are three opportunities for businesses and residents to weigh in with their thoughts on this issue.
- Take GMG’s one question survey. This survey is anonymous and will be provided to Blue Earth County officials for them to gauge the public’s views on the sales tax.
- Attend a Public Meeting. Blue Earth County Commissioners will hold a public meeting to provide information regarding the county’s transportation needs and take public feedback. This meeting will take place at the Blue Earth County Historic Courthouse (204 S 5th St, Mankato) in the third floor conference room on Monday, October 26 at 7 p.m.
- Contact County Commissioners by phone or email directly. You can get contact information here.