The Leon County Board of County Commissioners are well on their way to approving a five cent gas tax. The tax will raise approximately $4 million which will be split between the City and the County.
The most popular rationale was the fact that it was a usage tax – the more you drive the more you pay. Also, County Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley pointed out that the increase in the gas tax will allow Leon County to qualify for more state transportation tax money. Other Commissioners noted that it is a tax that is paid by people that live outside Leon County, but travel the roads to get to work.
And finally, it was highlighted that the materials used to maintain roads -asphalt – is a petroleum based product that has significantly increased in price over the last five years and the revenue is needed to maintain the transportation infrastructure.
However, the $4 million question is will the 5 cent gas tax result in more expenditures for road maintenance?
The City has already weighed-in on this question and their answer was no. The majority of their share of the gas tax, approximately $2 million, will go to fund Star Metro operations.
The County Commissioners had a chance to answer that question when it was asked by the moderator of the discussion at NEBA, but the Commissioners chose to discuss their rationale for supporting the tax and never provided an answer about how the new tax would effect the level of road maintenance expenditures.
In 2013, Leon County budgeted $13.5 million for road maintenance projects. A new gas tax that generates approximately $2 million should increase that budgeted amount and result in more expenditures for maintaining roads and bridges.
However, it is not that simple.
Approximately $4.3 million of the $13.5 million budgeted in 2013 for road and bridge maintenance was funded by a subsidy from other revenue funds. So the question is, if the gas tax passes, will revenue dedicated to road and bridge maintenance increase or will the gas tax revenue take the place of the other revenues that have subsidized the road maintenance over the last five years?
The upcoming public hearings on the gas tax will provide ample time for Leon County citizens to get an answer to that question.