tampabay.com

Gas tax rise sought to fix roads

Commissioners ask the public to give their opinions in June on a 3 cents per gallon increase.

By ASJYLYN LODER
Published May 16, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - Love it or hate it, Hernando County residents will get the chance to sound off on an additional 3 cent per gallon gas tax.

The Hernando County Commission encountered little opposition Tuesday when it voted unanimously to put the tax to a public hearing at 1:30 p.m. June 26 in the County Commission Chambers.

The vote stood in stark contrast to a similar attempt last year, when a clear lack of support killed the proposal before it even came to a vote.

Diane Rowden, who lead that abortive effort, said this year might be different for two reasons: the County Commission has two new members, and state legislators are poised to cut property taxes.

"It's not so much that people are in favor of the gas tax," Rowden said, "But with the situation in Tallahassee, we have to be on guard and figure out if there are other solutions for the situation we're going to be in: Not having enough money to do the roads."

Even before the threat of tax cuts, the county's road program was strapped for cash due to rising prices of cement and petroleum, the main ingredient of asphalt. The county needs the money or the roads ahead will be bumpy, argued Charles Mixson, director of the county's Department of Public Works, in a memo to the board.

The county already levies 9 cents per gallon out of the 12 cents allowed by the state, according to a January report by the Florida Legislative Committee on Intergovernmental Relations. One other county levies 9 cents, another levies 10 cents, and 16 of Florida's 67 counties levy the full 12 cents, including neighboring Citrus County. Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties each levy 7 cents per gallon.

Rowden pointed out that support for the public hearing does not necessarily translate into support for the 3 cent per gallon tax. The tax requires a super-majority vote of at least four of the five commissioners. If it succeeds, it will go into effect Jan. 1.

"We have to try," said Bill Busch, the county's pavement management coordinator, with a sigh. Busch said as a county employee, he knows what the needs are. As a Hernando County resident, he understands the hit homeowners have taken through major increases in property taxes and homeowners insurance.

Asjylyn Loder can be reached at aloder@sptimes.com or (352)754-6127.

If you go:

Public hearing

Weigh in on the increase at 1:30 p.m. June 26 in the County Commission Chambers in Brooksville.

County tax rates:

The state allows counties to levy up to 12 cents per gallon on gas. A proposed 3 cents per gallon increase would raise Hernando's tax from 9 cents to the maximum. Here's what other counties levy:

County

Current tax
Hernando 9 cents per gal.
Citrus 12 cents per gal.
Pasco 7 cents per gal.
Hillsborough 7 cents per gal.
Pinellas 7 cents per gal.