Gravel tax irritating for some Mille Lacs County landowners

Some rural Mille Lacs County landowners who have gravel on their land seemed chafed by the county’s proposed change in its aggregate-removal tax ordinance.

The change would impose a tax on certain sellers of gravel by removing an exemption.

The exemption now in place that is proposed to be stricken, states: “Operators shall be exempted from the tax who, in the previous year, removed less than 1,000 cubic yards of aggregate materials from the county.”

The County Board talked about the proposed change during its June 17 meeting when the board conducted a public hearing on it.

Don and Ron Bailey, who are brothers jointly owning land with gravel on it in Milaca Township spoke against it.

“What is the purpose of the tax; what purpose does it serve the county?” Don Bailey asked.

Ron Bailey said the tax adds to the base cost of the gravel, making it more expensive to buy.

“It comes back to bite the people of the county,” he said.

Don Bailey asked if the gravel tax violates any state statute. He said he understood that someone found out some years ago that a particular gravel tax was in violation of state law. According to Mille Lacs County Administrator Roxy Traxler, the gravel tax was set up with the idea of helping repair roads damaged by extra trucks coming from nearby gravel pits.

Board Chair Phil Peterson said he didn’t think the gravel tax was much and said that if the gravel price was low, the county’s gravel might be depleted faster because of people in other counties coming in to buy it.

The gravel tax is calculated as either 15 cents per ton or 21.5 cents per yard of aggregate material removed.

It was noted in the discussion that part of Mille Lacs County has a rich vein of gravel, and places that don’t have much gravel have to pay more for it.

One man, who spoke but didn’t give his name, said that if the tax is used to help repair roads, then it might be put to good use. He asked if the cost of repairing the roads should be passed on to the user of the gravel or to the taxpayers.

Mille Lacs County Administrator Roxy Traxler noted that a draft of a proposed gravel tax ordinance will be brought to the county board again for possible passage. She said that in the meantime she would look into the concerns raised about gravel taxes meeting state law.