New tax to help offset costs of meth use in Dunn County

DUNN COUNTY, Wis. (WEAU) -- Dunn County officials say during the past few years, there have been more children placed into foster care because of their parents' using drugs.

The county was in a $1 million deficit last year because of costs related to a rise in meth use in the area.

Now, a new tax is being used to make up for some of that extra cost.

For the first time, Dunn County will be implementing a $20 vehicle registration fee, also known as a wheel tax to help make up for the deficit.

Since the county allocated that one million dollars primarily toward child placement services, that left a lack of funding for other things like road maintenance. Officials say a lack of funding and resources is an ongoing issue.

“That crisis hasn’t gone away,” said Paull Miller, County Manager. “The state has taken some steps, allocating more money for those programs, but much more is needed.”

Miller says Dunn County has resisted the idea of a wheel tax for years, but now it may be necessary.

“For years, the state underfunded what was needed for road construction and maintenance programs,” said Miller.

The Department of Human Services says over the past few years, there has been an 18% increase in out-of-home care costs.

“Last year, about 90 percent of the cases that were involved in a court action has a meth contributor,” said Kristin Korpela, Department of Human Services Director.

Korpela says Human Services is anticipating an additional $25.5 million in 2020 for child welfare funding.

Miller also says Dunn County is investing a lot of resources into diversion programs to treat people's addiction rather than incarcerating.

The Dunn County Sheriff, Kevin Bygd, says he has seen an uptick in meth-related arrests last year, but also says that there has been more aggressive enforcement this year. He says the department is making an impact on the drug-related issues in the county.

As far as the wheel tax, Miller says it will be reviewed on an annual basis and will either continue, decrease or be eliminated.