ST. CLOUD - As Stearns County commissioners consider their options for possibly raising more money for transportation projects, St. Cloud's mayor has given his opinion.

Mayor Dave Kleis has sent a letter to the commissioners stating that he thinks the half-cent sales tax, if that's the option they choose, should be brought to the voters through a county-wide referendum.  Additionally, Kleis says any proposed road improvement plan should bear a reasonable relationship to the community where the sales tax is generated.

Kleis says, under the county-wide half-cent sales tax proposal, the city of St. Cloud would be generating about 46 percent of the sales tax collected, and the St. Cloud metro area would be collecting about 77 percent of the sale tax collected. However, Kleis says about 92 percent of the projects would be outside of the metro area.

Kleis says residents in the St. Cloud metro area approved a half-cent sales tax in 2002, 2004 and in 2012 where 60 percent of the money collected is already being used for regional road projects.

A public hearing is scheduled for next month so Stearns County commissioners can consider how to fund road construction projects over the next five years.

County Engineer Jodi Teich says they prepared three different five-year road construction plans for commissioners to consider. One plan left the funding formula as is.  Another would raise the wheelage tax and the last would be to add a half-cent sales tax strictly for transportation projects.

Raising the wheelage tax from $10 to $20 would double the current figure of $1,400,000 collected every year for road projects to an estimated $2,800,000.

A half-cent transportation sales tax which would infuse an estimated $9,250,000 into the construction budget every year. It would sunset once all of the designated projects are completed and paid for.

The public hearing will be held at the start of the county board meeting June 20th.

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