Perhaps you have received your vehicle tab renewal form in the mail and wondered where the wheelage tax is used. All the wheelage taxes collected in Otter Tail County stay in the county and are used for county highway projects only. The funding of Otter Tail County’s transportation infrastructure is vital for residents of a county with 1,070 miles of paved roads.
The wheelage tax was first reviewed by a twenty-five-member plan steering committee while developing the Otter Tail County 2040 Transportation Plan. The wheelage tax was one tool to increase funding for the Highway Department to implement projects and maintain the vast amount of highway miles in the county. The steering committee, after receiving public input from fourteen public meetings, recommended the Board of Commissioners pass a resolution authorizing a wheelage tax in Otter Tail County.
On July 21, 2015 the county board, by resolution and outlined in Article 14 of the Minnesota Constitution, levied a wheelage tax for “highway purposes.” The fee authorized for wheelage tax is capped at $20.00 and is paid with license tabs. Otter Tail County is one of fifty-three other counties in Minnesota to authorize the wheelage tax. Several area counties including Clay, Norman, Pope and Stearns have implemented the tax.
“The wheelage tax is an important source of funding that our county needs to maintain the infrastructure that is essential for our residents, visitors, farmers and business owners,” stated Board Chair Wayne Johnson. “With increasing costs for highway construction and maintenance, we had to utilize this funding tool. All of the funds are used in the county and allow us to complete much needed improvements like the highway 84 project in New York Mills.”
The wheelage tax funded the recently completed CSHA 84 project in NY Mills. This was a pavement rehabilitation project with a cost of $1,169,000. Funding for highway projects has not kept pace with the growing costs and improvement needs. This source of funding allows such improvements to be made in a timely manner according to the needs outlined in the long-range comprehensive County Transportation Plan.
“This (wheelage tax) means a lot to the highway department as it allows projects and plans to move forward faster because of the funding,” remarked Rick West, OTC Public Works Director.