Lawrence County revises wheel tax

Lawrence County’s wheel tax will now charge a maximum of $8 per vehicle on vehicles weighing up to 6,000 pounds and a maximum of $10 per vehicle on vehicles weighing 6,001 pounds or more. Pioneer photo by Jaci Conrad Pearson

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DEADWOOD —As a move in posturing for more Bridge Improvement Grant (BIG) points and dollars, Tuesday, the Lawrence County Commission revised its wheel tax.

Beginning Jan. 1, the tax will charge $2 per wheel on a maximum of four wheels, not to exceed $8 per vehicle for vehicles weighing up to 6,000 pounds and $5 on a maximum of two wheels, not to exceed $10 per vehicle for vehicles weighing 6,001 pounds or more.

The former wheel tax implemented March 1, 2016, charged $2 per wheel with the total wheel tax not to exceed 12 wheels or $24 per vehicle.

Commissioners received two emails from the state confirming that the newly structured wheel tax would, in fact, receive the full 10 points when applying for BIG, the entire reason for revising the tax.

“It brings us up to that this year,” said Commissioner Richard Sleep.

“I think the point is well-taken that every year, while this BIG grant is going on, we need to revisit this and I think it’s appropriate to do so,” said Commissioner Randy Deibert.

The proceeds from the wheel tax are retained by the county, deposited into the County Road and Bridge Fund and the revenue, as set forth by state law, shall be used only for highway and bridge maintenance and construction.

 “I think, to your point, because it’s not a legislative action, because it’s an administrative process, the way this point scale works, they could change it next year and then we would have to, accordingly, we may need to adjust,” said Commissioner Brandon Flanagan. 

A wide variety of factors, developed by the state of South Dakota, comprise what is referred to as a BIG score, which ranks project and funding priority with a point score.

The BIG program was created by the 2015 legislative session in Senate Bill 1 (SB 1). 

SB 1 states that in order to be eligible for a BIG grant, a county must impose a wheel tax. In addition, a county must have a County Highway and Bridge Improvement Plan. The plan should detail proposed county highway and bridge improvement projects in the county for the next five years.

The Transportation Commission was tasked with creating Administrative Rules regarding the application process and timelines, the guidelines and criteria for approval of applications, and the distribution of funds from the local BIG fund. 

Commissioner Randall Rosenau acknowledged comments that were made during the commission’s previous discussion regarding the wheel tax at the first reading held June 25.

“In regard to the heaviest vehicles causing the most damage, we’ve actually lowered their wheel tax. They should not have been lowered to the degree we did, but that is where we are at. If we want to move forward, we’d have to change it and start all over, but, we’re on a time constraint,” Rosenau said.

Flanagan said the county is accomplishing its mission with the newly revised tax.

“And that’s to get points for the grant,” Flanagan said. 

Deibert suggested looking at the tax again in May 2020.

Since the wheel tax was implemented 2016, around $300,000 has been collected each year in Lawrence County.

The revised ordinance becomes effective July 29 and officially implemented and collected by the county beginning Jan. 1, 2020, with all registrations and renewals and for all subsequent months thereafter.

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