Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Feb. 12, 2001

Wright board trying to get gravel tax

By John Holler

If at first you don't succeed, try something else. That's become the motto of the Wright County Board, as it attempts to deal with the state in getting a gravel tax implemented for the county.

At the board's Feb. 6 meeting, the county again tried to tackle the issue, but this time with a two-pronged attack.

When it comes to gravel resources, taxes are paid one of two ways when the resources crosses county lines - by the county where the gravel is mined or the county where the gravel is brought.

"It's really pretty ridiculous," Commissioner Ken Jude said "Hennepin County has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes on gravel taken out of Wright County simply because we don't have a gravel tax."

The county brought forward two proposals. A first would ask for a production tax be placed on exported gravel - a plan that was quickly shot down at last year's session. The other would simply be to add Wright County to a list of 28 counties that already charge a gravel tax.

"The second option is the most likely, but we're going to submit both proposals to committee hoping that, if the first one fails again, we can get the second one done," County Coordinator Dick Norman said. "With the money at stake, we're looking to do whatever we can to keep the levy down and the dollars generated here are pretty substantial."

Bordering Sherburne County, for example, took in more than $200,000 in gravel tax revenue, Jude said, and Wright County exports more gravel that it does. The county had a chance to ne part of the gravel tax program back in 1984, but then-Auditor-Treasurer Ozzie Arlien convinced the board the program was too much of a paper work nightmare compared to what it would bring in as revenue. At that time, it may have been true, but potentially have a quarter-million-dollar revenue stream is not small time any more.

"We hope that we can get this through the Legislature this time," Norman said. "With the money that is at stake, we can't afford to lose it for another year."

The board authorized Jude to attend the legislative committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 7 at the State Capitol to argue the county's case. Earlier in the session, a similar request from Kanabec County got approval at the committee level.

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