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County Board advised on sales tax (12/07/2003)
By Amanda Romaine
At Winona County's 2004 Truth in Taxation Hearing Thursday, former county commissioner Mac McCauley told the board the city and county should work together to get a "blanket approval for sales tax."

"You have to do everything you can to keep property taxes down," said McCauley. "Sales tax is a more fair tax." He said the city and county should combine things like planning and law enforcement and get a blanket sales tax without special projects so they have another revenue source.

He said if the city and county go their separate ways they'll be "sitting in an island with high sales tax."

The county board will be presented with a resolution to potentially fund the construction of a new county jail through a dedicated local sales tax. Commissioner Dwayne Voegeli requested the resolution be presented for the jail with a price tag of $10-$12 million to be considered as a potential funding option. The board has not decided whether to build a new county jail.

The city, separately, is proposing and receiving feedback on a dedicated one-half cent sales tax to be collected within the City of Winona for ten years. The total money collected in the ten years is estimated to equal $14.2 million by city officials. About ten road construction projects throughout the city have been identified for potential funding through the tax.

Before any local sales tax can be approved for collection, the governing body where the tax would be collected must pass a resolution indicating its approval of the tax, according to Minnesota State Statute. Following the resolution the governing body may request legislative approval of a special law to allow the local sales tax to be administered. Statute also states that before the adoption of the local sales tax, it is subject to approval by voters in the collection area at a general election.

In the Truth in Taxation hearing county officials told the almost twenty people in attendance that Winona County was ranked 82 out of 87 counties in per capita rankings for levy increases.

County Administrator Bob Reinert said that means only five counties in Minnesota raised the levy less per capita than Winona County and 81 raised the levy higher per capita.

"Our commissioners have worked very diligently to keep the levy down," said Reinert.

In general state aid the county received about $1.2 million less for 2004 than 2003, said Reinert. He said that the county has cut the expenditures by about $3 million from 2003 to 2004.

The county has proposed a $33,602,376 budget for 2004. The total tax levy for 2004 is 7.04 percent more than 2003, a total of $13,712,452.

Constituents have one more opportunity to address the county board regarding the budget at the board's December 16 meeting at 7:00 p.m. at the County Government Center Board Room.



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