After lengthy debate, Willhite and Lee vote no

    The Polk County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a one-quarter percent sales tax increase Tuesday that will go into effect on January 1, 2018. Two board members, Gary Willhite of District 3 and Joan Lee of District 4, voted against the proposal after a lengthy discussion at the meeting.

    Based upon state projections, a quarter-percent sales tax would generate about $750,000 a year in Polk County, said District 2 Commissioner Warren Strandell in his “County Line” column in early August.

    “To put the effect of a quarter-percent sales tax into perspective, this tax would add $1 to the purchase of a new $400 lawnmower,” explained Strandell in his column. “For a $50 dinner tab for two, the added cost would be 12.5 cents.”

    “Since food and clothing are exempt from sales tax, taxes for purchases of those items would not be collected,” he added.

    The intent of the sales tax increase, like the current Wheelage Tax, was to provide additional dollars for county roads. Polk County’s Wheelage Tax generated approximately $300,000 or more per year that it has been in effect, or a little more than $1 million.

    During a late August board meeting, upset small business owners filled the room with their objections to the proposed sales tax increase. Crookston’s Bob Prudhomme of Bob’s Lawn Care said it would place added stress on his small business and that he was for a small increase in the Wheelage Tax instead. Leah Palubicki of Palubicki’s Family Market and Spirits in Fosston said the increase would cost her business $10,000 to implement plus the additional costs of accountants’ time.  Nord’s Pharmacy owner Evan Fonder pointed out that it is the car taking the wear and tear on the road so the tax should be on the car.