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Wheelage tax passes in Beltrami County

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BEMIDJI — If you're an average car owner, come Jan. 1 you'll owe Beltrami County an additional $10 when registering your vehicle.

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In a 3-1 decision Tuesday night, the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners passed a wheelage tax, requiring auto owners to pay $10 annually for their vehicles. Motorcycles and antique cars, however, are exempt from the tax.

Funds from the tax — an estimated $340,000 annually — will go toward paying the debt service on a proposed $8 million in bonds to be used for road projects throughout the county. That money is in addition to a possible $8 million in cash from the county's reserve fund that would be used as part of the board's "accelerated highway improvement plan."

The tax will be reviewed annually, county administrator Kay Mack said.

"To me that makes sense," District 3 Commissioner Richard Anderson said, referring to the combination of money from the reserve fund, bonds and funds from the wheelage tax. "If we go less than $16 million I don't think we're going to have much of an impact (on roads) over the years."

At issue was just how much the board was willing to take from county coffers for road construction. District 5 Commissioner Jim Lucachick maintained Tuesday night the amount in the reserve funds was too high, and suggested the county would be fiscally safe operating with a reserve of five month's worth of operating costs. Anderson and District 2 Commissioner Joe Vene disagreed, saying they were only comfortable with a low of six month's worth of operating costs, a difference of about $5 million.

District 4 Commissioner Tim Sumner, who initially backed Lucachick's insistence on a fund balance of five month's worth of operating costs, seconded Vene's motion to set the balance at six month's worth.

Lucachick voted against the motion, and was also the lone dissenting voice in the wheelage tax vote. District 1 Commissioner Jack Frost was absent.

"A tax is a tax and I'm opposed to it," he said.

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Justin Glawe
Reporting on crime, courts and Beltrami county government. Follow me on Twitter @JustinGlawe.
(218) 333-9200 x343
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