by Dennis Dalman
Since Jan. 1, some people have noticed they are paying a slighter higher sales tax when doing business with or in Stearns County.
The tax, one-fourth of a cent, is called the “transit sales and use tax.” The tax is expected to bring in about $4.6 million per year or a total of about $23 million in a five-year period, Stearns County Engineer Jodi Teich said.
Approved by the Stearns County Board of Commissioners last July, the tax is administered via the Minnesota Department of Revenue. The tax funds will be used to pay for 15 road projects in the county during the next five years, after which time the tax is expected to expire.
The fourth-cent tax is in addition to the 6.875 percent sales tax, bringing the current tax to 7.125 percent.
Teich said the tax will allow the county to move up other road projects on the work schedule, ones that won’t have to be done using that particular tax revenue.
She said the tax will also generate revenue from the many people who live outside Stearns County but who visit the county often on one form of business or another.
The county board was reluctant to impose a county transit-and-use tax, but most of its members felt they had no choice because of the long-delayed road and bridge projects on their five-year construction schedule.
One of the projects, a resurfacing of Highway 75 (Division Street) from I-94 to Parkwood 18 will start in June. Another project. slated for 2020, is the resurfacing of CR 133 between St. Joseph and Sartell.
Other projects involve adding turn lanes, resurfacing, fixing drainage problems and installing safety features. Several of the projects are in the western part of Stearns County, and others are near the cities of Holdingford, Fairhaven, Kimball, Cold Spring and Melrose.