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Pinellas County Decides Against Raising Gas Tax To Fund Road Repairs

A gas pump nozzle in front of a gas pump.
Joe Raedle
Getty Images
In Pinellas County, the funds that are used to repair roads, sidewalks, and bridges will have a $3.3 million deficit next year -- but it won't come from an increase in the gas tax.

Pinellas County commissioners voted not to raise a tax on gasoline, even though the money would be used to meet a shortfall in road repair funds.

During their meeting Tuesday, Pinellas County Commissioners voted against a proposal that would have raised the local tax people pay for gasoline from seven cents a gallon to 12 cents.

The levy would have meant $9.3 million for the Transportation Trust Fund.

Instead, the fund that is used to repair roads, sidewalks, and bridges will have a $3.3 million deficit next year.

The increase, part of the proposed fiscal 2022 budget, would have supported capital related transportation, sidewalk initiatives, and additional resurfacing projects, according to a slide show shown at the information session.

The 12 cents a gallon figure would have matched what residents of Manatee, Pasco, Sarasota, and 36 other Florida counties already pay.

However, given the conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Commissioner Karen Seel said that a tax increase should not be passed at this time.

“I'm not looking to impose any kind of tax increase on any level to our citizens until they get back on their feet, emotionally, fiscally. And, you know, they've just been through a whole lot,” said Seel.

“The gas tax, we can talk about that at another time, I would much rather see us take this out of property tax than add another tax at the pump.”

Officials said the shortage can still be made up through the general fund. This will cause taxpayers to see a smaller decrease in the 2022 property tax rate than the one originally proposed by county administrator Barry Burton.

Even though the decrease in the tax rate would be smaller, the county would still generate the same amount of revenue as last year thanks to increasing property values, according to Burton.

But officials say further discussion of the repair fund will have to occur in the future. When that time comes, Seel said that the fix must be a permanent one, and not just a stopgap that “kick(s) the can down the road.”

The commission will vote on the budget next month.

Daniel Finton is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for the summer of 2021.
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