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The Chippewa County Board approved a resolution Tuesday that asks the Legislature to allow all counties to approve a half-percent sales tax to help pay for roads and bridge projects.

The measure passed on a 6-5 vote, with four board members absent.

County Administrator Randy Scholz discussed the proposal at the December board meeting. The sales tax in Chippewa County is 5.5%. Scholz said that an additional half-percent sales tax could generate anywhere between $5.25 million and $5.8 million in revenue.

Randy Scholz

Scholz

The resolution will be sent to area legislators, the governor’s office and the Wisconsin Counties Association. There isn’t a bill in either the Assembly or Senate that matches what Scholz has outlined.

“Obviously, this is a long way from getting it done. And this would just be an option for counties; they wouldn’t have to do it,” Scholz said.

The county is averaging repaving 8.9 miles of highways each year, meaning the road system would be replaced every 55 years. However, it is recommended roads be repaved every 25 years, the resolution states.

Board member Dean Gullickson of Tilden spoke against the idea, saying the Legislature needs to figure out a better way to fund transportation.

“I think it’s a disgrace,” Gullickson said. “I don’t believe a half-percent sales tax is the answer. A half-percent sales tax, what is that going to do to our economy? If we adopt it, and Eau Claire County doesn’t, are people going to go to Eau Claire (to shop?)”

Boyd resident Henry Shakal, a former county board member, also spoke against the idea at the beginning of the meeting. He criticized past state and local officials for not raising the fuel tax, saying it has placed counties in a difficult situation.

“They don’t want to do their jobs,” Shakal said of the Legislature. “Putting a half-percent sales tax on, I think that’s wrong. I’m surprised this got out of committee.”

The county has been exploring ideas on how to raise money to pay for road projects. The county’s $10-per-vehicle wheel tax, which generated about $550,000 annually the past five years, expired at the end of 2019. That money was specifically used for winter road maintenance, not road repairs.

Chippewa County is spending about $4.4 million for road projects annually, between levy and sales tax dollars, state and federal aid, and borrowing. A proposal Scholz shared with the board in October recommends increasing the road funding to $7.99 million a year, nearly double the present amount.

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(2) comments

SRLaBelle

I think that we, the folks who live in Chippewa falls, Hallie and the northern edge of the city of Eau Claire (which is actually in Chippewa county) Will be taking most of the hit on this tax.

The odd thing is, most of the money will flow north to build roads for people who live on lakes, forest lots and large tracts of land.

People in the city have to pay out of pocket to repair the roads which run by their homes, it ridiculous that, based on a 6-5 vote (with four board members apparently unwilling or unable to show up for such a key vote,) we, in the cities, are going to be forced to pay for roads for folks in the rural areas who pay very low property taxes.

The hypocrisy of running against the wheel tax and then allowing a huge, regressive tax increase designed to fund the nearly useless Cobban bridge and county roads that the many of the people in town will never drive on is jaw dropping.

I’d be willing to bet a buck that the 2020 census will show that the more urban parts of the county are growing much faster than the rural parts and that any upcoming redistributing will shift the board’s power more into equallibrium.

But for now, we, in the name of stopping the wheel tax, have elected a board that looks the other way while we are about to be dinged for a huge tax increase.

What a shame

When we let self interested cliques grab taxing power and serve themselves, the rest of us lose

It damages the livability of our community

retired guy

I consider the four Supervisors who didn't show up at this meeting to have voted yes. Typical of the hunting law violator from Bloomer to be a no show. He does this nearly every time there is a vote held on a contentious issue.

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