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Residents to county: Do not raise ’15 levy, get rid of wheelage tax

Several issues were raised at the McLeod County Truth in Taxation hearing Tuesday evening, Dec. 2, concerning the wheelage tax and the lengthy list of impending county projects, but of most concern was the proposed 2 percent levy tax increase for 2015. And the general consensus of the public was: “No, do not raise taxes.”
Wheelage tax
Glen Sladek of Hutchinson approached the Board about the $10 wheelage tax. “I was against it then and I’m against it now. I’m begging you to rescind that tax.”
Sladek said that tax cost him $30 for his three vehicles and “after seeing what it was spent on, wasted on really, I’m asking that you please rescind that, you guys.”
The wheelage tax was spent on a experimental prime-and-seal project on Tagus Avenue, west of Lake Marion.
Commissioner Kermit Terlinden said the tax comes up in August.
“It’s unneeded, and proved unneeded,” Sladek said.
Craig Bishop, also a Hutchinson resident, said the wheelage tax affects the poor more than the “affluent.”
“What are you thinking at this point?” he asked the Board.
Commissioner Paul Wright said as long as the Board can “point a finger as to what we spend it (the wheelage tax) on, it’s fine.” He said he knows most are not happy about the road work in Collins Township and that the Board is working on fixing the issues.
Jim Bobier of Hutchinson asked about the county receiving county program aid and suggested possibly eliminating the wheelage tax and using the aid to pay for expenditures.
“Many residents have fixed incomes,” Bobier said, and added they cannot afford that tax.
The wheelage tax generated about $350,000 last year and Wright reminded the audience that the Board chose not to raise sales tax in McLeod County by half a percent, “which would have generated $900,000.”
Wright also said the local government aid (county program aid, CPA) that the county receives “is not guaranteed. The state has retracted that from us before. We, historically, have not always bet on that being there,” Wright said.
Doug Krueger, a Glencoe resident and commissioner-elect, asked the Board if there was any recourse for the contractor on the Tagus Avenue project.
“It was prepped by us and sealed by the contractor according to specs. It was not the fault of the contractor,” Commissioner Sheldon Nies said.
“I would question that it’s somebody’s fault,” Bishop said.
Wright said he knows “nobody” is happy about that road, but “we will try to figure out the problem.”

For more from the hearing, see the Dec. 10 print edition of The Chronicle.