Without new funding sources, roads in Pasco County could be in trouble. And while county officials have brought several options to the table, commissioners chose to revive one debate that created quite a ruckus last fall: the gas tax.
“I’ve heard enough from the citizens before that I am not going to support a gas tax,” said Commissioner Henry Wilson, who joined fellow commissioner Jack Mariano to defeat an earlier proposed 5-cent gas tax hike in September.
Moments later, however, Wilson softened his stance, saying he might consider a compromise that would bring a proposed increase to just 3 cents.
That could make a big difference in what is now a $5 million gap in the county’s capital transportation fund. A 3-cent increase could raise that much money, and cost drivers 6 cents a day, assuming gas stations passed that tax on to drivers.
However, to fund all of the county’s transportation needs beginning next year, Pasco would need to raise $8.5 million. And that’s where a new option can come into play — raising property taxes.
That option, mixed with a gas tax, had the commission buzzing last week. With a 3-cent gas tax increase, the county would only have to raise taxes 0.1905 mills, equal to an annual increase of less than $10 for a $100,000 home that claims $50,000 in exemptions.
Raising property taxes for road and bridge projects would affect homes in all parts of the county, including incorporated areas. But the county would not be required to share those revenues with the individual cities, like it would for other options.
Commissioners won’t have to decide on a new plan until next year, but giving county administrator Michele Baker and her staff some direction in which way they’re leaning could help with the planning process, Baker said.
“We have years of decisions to deal with, but going forward, we have very limited revenue, and we have to come up with a plan on moving forward,” she said.
By moving money intended to build new roads into accounts that would maintain existing roads, more than a dozen projects as part of an overall 15-year plan would be affected, officials said, totaling $151 million, with $55 million earmarked from gas tax revenue.
Projects like Bell Lake Road from U.S. 41 to Alpine Road would be pushed from 2015 to 2017. It also delays other projects like County Road 54 from State Road 54/56 to Progress Parkway, as well as Starkey Boulevard from River Crossing Boulevard to DeCubellis Road to the next decade.
Other projects would be moved off the schedule completely, like the third phase of Collier Parkway to Ehren Cutoff, as well as Twenty Mile Level Road from State Road 54 to Collier Parkway.
Commissioners did indicate they would likely reject other options brought to the table, including creating a new municipal service taxing unit and tolling options.
Another funding possibility could come in the form of a real estate transfer tax, a documentary stamp tax that could raise 45 cents for every $100 value when real estate is sold. The county would only have to tax 28 cents for every $100 value for the full $8.5 million. Such a move there, however, would require approval by the state legislature.