ST. CLOUD -- Stearns County residents will be paying more sales tax next year after county commissioners voted 3-2 to increase it by a quarter-percent.

The additional revenue, coupled with the existing $10 wheelage tax, will raise just over $6,000,000 every year and will be used to pay for road construction projects in the county.

County Engineer Jodi Teich says they have a $10,000,000 yearly funding shortfall to get caught up with pavement preservation, reconstruction and intersection improvements. Even with the additional dollars under this plan, the county will still be about $4,000,000 below the revenue needed.

Commissioners considered several funding options including, raising the wheelage tax to $20 or raising the sales tax by a half-percent, but those motions failed.

Board Chair DeWayne Mareck blames state and federal officials for passing the costs down to the county level, but says the needs are real and they aren't going away.

The sales tax increase will go into effect January 1st and can only be used for specific road construction projects outlined in advance.  Once the projects are completed, the sales tax increase sunsets.

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