Taxes — a word that will cause just about anybody to cringe, raise blood pressure, and possibly incite a round of other four letter words not suitable for this paper.

I say this a bit tongue in cheek, but please know that I do not take taxation lightly and am writing this article because Yankton County, as many may have already heard, is proposing a change to add an additional $1 to our current wheel tax ordinance.

Our current wheel tax is set at $4 per wheel on up to a maximum of four wheels and we are looking to increase that to $5. Essentially, citizens currently pay $16 per year for every car, pickup, trailer, etc with four wheels. The new implementation would raise this by $4 per vehicle per year. If you own two vehicles, your taxes effectively will be raised by $8 and so on. You get the picture.

Some may think of the adage, “You cannot tax your way into prosperity,” in which I agree. But I also know that you CAN save your way into poverty, which is one reason our roads are in the poor condition we see today. We need to make the right investments when they present themselves, and I would like to offer readers a bit of an explanation as to why I am in support of this wheel tax increase.

First and foremost, it will have a positive impact on the competitive bid process the state has laid out for its Bridge Improvement Grants (BIG). This state program allows counties to apply for assistance on bridge repair and replacement projects. All applications have criteria entered into a formula and the highest scores are allocated the funding. Some of the criteria include condition of the bridge, how close the nearest alternate route would be if the bridge closed, etc. Some of those things we really have no control of, but there are several factors that we do have influence over. Having a “shovel ready” plan increases our score and we have executed plans to begin engineering work on some bridges.

Another lever we have is to increase the cost share from the county. For instance some of our recent bridge work was awarded an 80/20% cost match from the state, the state paying the larger portion. If dollars available in the program were tight and another county were looking at a large project, we could increase our share to a 30/70% or 50/50% split and “buy” points on our application. This is something we may need to consider down the road but is not in our plan just yet. This option is potentially very costly when looking at a $5 million bridge replacement.

A third means to increase our scores is to have a $5 wheel tax. Any amount from $1-5 will add to our score, but $5 will give us the maximum opportunity to have a successful application. Simply put, the state is willing to help those who help themselves when it comes to roads. We are in competition with other counties to utilize a finite pool of money that is offered by the state. I see the $1 increase as having potential for a good return on our investment and we could leave millions of dollars on the table if we do not take steps to maximize our BIG scores.

The secondary reason that I support this increase is simple: every dollar we can spend on maintaining our roads today will save $7 in future costs (this figure is given to us from LTAP). It has been estimated that this increase will net $113,000 (give or take) dollars that are allocated to our Highway Department. While every little bit helps, this sum increases our current highway budget by just over 2%. It will not be enough to identify any large projects for reconstruction, bridge replacement, etc. This amount would not even cover the asphalt costs for one mile of road. I say this to try to reiterate that primary reason for support is really the BIG score stipulations and not to be careless with taxpayers dollars. This is the lowest cost method of increasing our chances for future bridge repair and replacement.

I am confident that this action will be brought to a petition and public vote as has been done in the recent past, but I urge readers to view this not just as a money grab but as I see it: a solid return on investment.


(3) comments


Probably wound't have need this tax hike if this County Commission hadn't spent $250,000 on dead end lawsuits and exorbitant salaries for replacement Planning and Zoning Administrators.

As Joe says “You cannot tax your way into prosperity,”. But you can't waste money to get there either.

Yankton resident

MJohnson: why not mention the pledges of tax dollars to YAPG of $250,000, why not mention the discretionary tax formula offered to multi-million dollar corporations to build in the county, why not mention TIF, both of which promise tax growth but no one can show or prove these instruments work, as tax bills and other fees, continue to grow in the county and the city. Both instruments create the need for additional government revenues which have never been recovered and are proven never to be recoverable. Why not mention the thousands of dollars of tax revenue that is begged off county government annually? How about asking other taxing entities (who have taxing authority) and there are several why they are coming to the county for additional funding annually. By the way don't think for one minute that it is entity that provides a life, safety, or essential service, because it is not. MJohnson, you will always go back to tunnel vision, dealing with planning and zoning more particularly ag. You never want to look at the whole spectrum of issues, only the faults you perceive to lie in planning and zoning as it relates to ag, which is only a drop it the barrel compared to all the other economic giveaways that are presumably suppose to "grow" our tax base, reduce our taxes and solve all of our problems. None of that economic development has worked in the past and will not work in the future. It is time for you and everyone else to see that fallacy for what it is and implore the CC to stop the bleeding of ALL the give away money and use it to provide true government services and infrastructure repair and replacement. What businesses need is infrastructure, not handouts of taxpayers dollars. Quit all the handouts and put resources toward infrastructure and meeting the essential needs of county government and the citizens it is suppose to serve. Therein is the message the county needs to hear and address, and until that happens there will never be enough money to satisfy county government or those feeling the county taxpayer should foot the bill for multi-million dollar corporations.


its getting to the point that lower middle class people cant make due to all the taxes this city and county think we can afford. not to mention the below poverty line people.

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