Board considers doubling wheelage tax

NEW ULM — Brown County commissioners will consider raising the wheelage tax from $10 per vehicle to $20 as of Jan 1, 2018, Tuesday.

Commissioners approved a $10 wheelage tax by resolution on June 25, 2013. The rate was restricted to $10 per vehicle starting in January 2014. The tax applied to most vehicles except motorcycles, trailers and collector vehicles.

State law allows counties to increase the wheelage tax from $10 to up to $20 starting Jan. 1, 2018. Counties must notified the State of Minnesota by Aug. 1, 2017, if they want to increase the tax.

Brown County collected $879,344 or an annual average of $293,115 from the 2014-2016 wheelage tax.

The recently passed transportation bill is estimated to increase Brown County’s State Aid allotment of for construction and maintenance by $195,000 in 2018; $210,000 in 2019; $484,000 in 2020; and $489,000 in 2021. The additional funding is not constitutionally dedicated.

The Brown County Highway Department’s current Five year Construction Program showed a total, unmet need of $14,100,000 for projects that should be in the five year plan but are not due to the funding shortage. Some of the roads are more than 20 years old and in poor condition.

No one can predict when a road will fail, but they are in poor enough condition that it can happen anytime, especially in the spring, Brown County Highway Engineer Wayne Stevens wrote in his request for board action.

“We will need to spend more money patching large portions of these roads or let them fall apart,” Stevens wrote. “The average cost in 2017 for a CIR (Cold In-Place Recycling) and three-inch overlay project is $212,000 a mile.”

Commissioners will also consider:

• Whether Brown County will accept jurisdiction of enforcement requirements of the state buffer law. On May 30, Gov. Dayton signed a tax bill and environment omnibus bill authorizing riparian aid to counties and watershed districts that elect jurisdiction to enforce the Riparian Protection Law. Notification of local board action to elect jurisdiction must be received by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) by 4:30 p.m., June 28 to receive Riparian Aid.

• Planning Commission recommendations, at about 10 a.m. Permit applications include:

• A request by Christensen Family Farms Midwest LLC, Section 17, Mulligan Township, to allow a new swine finishing operation with a maximum capacity of 2,800 head (840 AU) with construction of a 41 feet, two inch by 539 feet, eight inch total confinement barn with an eight feet deep concrete pit, all in the A-1 Agricultural Protection Zoning District.

• A request by Thomas Byro, Section 14, Linden Township, to continue to allow a maximum of 3,000 finishing swine (900 AU) and 400 head to dairy calves (80 AU) for a site maximum of 980 AU all in the A-1 Agricultural Protection Zoning District.

The meeting starts at 9 a.m. in the courthouse commissioners room.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at