NEWS RELEASEAugust 5, 2022“Benton County Local Option Sales Tax Boosts County Road Projects”
The pace of local road improvements has picked up in Benton County since enactment of the local option sales tax. Benton County joins 54 other Minnesota counties that collect a local sales tax for their County roads, including all of Benton’s neighboring counties. Look for these special signs around the County for projects funded with local sales tax.
Prior to the local option sales tax, the only source of funding for the County’s 226 miles of local roads was property taxes and the County wheelage tax. Local roads make up about half of the County’s 450 mile road system. Any road in the County numbered above 33 is a local road. The remaining roads numbered 33 and below are County State-Aid roads that qualify for State funding from motor fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees. Without a dedicated source of funding, County roads were falling into disrepair.
It became evident to the County Board that no additional funding would come from the State of Minnesota for our local road system, nor did the County Board want to increase the burden on property owners through higher property taxes. To help with this decision, the County Board asked the University of Minnesota Extension to study the possibility of a local option sales tax in Benton County. The Extension study, completed 2018, showed that 37% of sales taxes collected in Benton County were paid by persons residing outside Benton County. Local option sales taxes for transportation mirror the State sales tax by applying a tax to the same goods and services, but exempting essential items such as food and clothing. Benton County’s local option sales tax was enacted by the County Board in June 2019, and collections began in October 2019.
The County’s most recently adopted five-year road program calls for improvements to 100 miles of County roads in 2023 through 2027, including locally-supported roads and County State-Aid routes. Local option sales tax, along with the County’s wheelage tax will fund all or part of 60 miles of those projects. Improvements will range from overlays to full reconstructions, depending on condition and traffic counts.
Since enactment of the local option sales tax, the County has completed 13.4 miles of projects during 2020 and 2021, utilizing $3.1 million in sales tax collections. Major sales tax-funded road projects already completed or in progress this Summer include a mill and overlay of 8.75 miles of County State-Aid Highway 5 from Gilman to the East County line. Also, a mile of County Road 70 in Alberta Township will receive a full-depth reclamation.
Local option sales taxes are expected to generate $3 million in 2022. Combined with an estimated $625,000 in wheelage tax, County funding for the local road system now closely matches what it receives for its State-Aid routes, helping to ensure the local road half of the County’s road system is maintained equally well.
Questions or comments about the local option sales tax, the County’s five-year road program or general concerns about County roads can be directed to the Benton County Public Works Department at 320.968.5051. You can also connect with the Highway Department through Facebook.