St. Clair Commission approves 4-cent gas tax

4 cents

Posted: Thursday, May 7, 2015 9:27 pm | Updated: 9:30 pm, Thu May 7, 2015.

The St. Clair County Commission passed a resolution Thursday levying an excise tax on the sale of gasoline and diesel fuel sold in the county. This decision by the commission was done so road and bridge improvements can continue to be done without borrowing any money by the county.

The excise tax is for four cents per gallon.

County engineer Dan Dahlke said in order to maintain road repairs as in the past, the county would need $2.3 million.

Commissioner Jimmy Roberts made the motion to pass the resolution.

“I usually don’t like new taxes,” Roberts said. “But I certainly see where we need it. To keep this program going and keep this county growing, I’m going to make the motion to pass this gas tax.”

County attorney James Hill said this tax money would be collected and used for the purpose of constructing and maintaining roads and bridges within the county and for purchasing and maintaining equipment necessary.

Hill added that the tax would be implemented 60 days from the date of approval, and that the tax would be reviewed for potential revision two years from the date of passage.

“This is a decision to pay for necessary services as we are incurring them as opposed to borrowing and paying for those services plus interest in the future,” Hill said.

So, what is this going to cost does the average motorist over a period of a week, month or year?

If a motorist purchases 15 gallons of gas per week, it will cost $.60 per week, or $31.20 a year. Thirty gallons a week would cost $1.20 per week or $62.40 yearly while 60 gallons per week would cost $2.40 per week or $124.80 a year.

While some may argue that a gas tax can only be done by a legislative act, Hill said St. Clair County falls under Limited Home Rule, which gives the County Commission the authority to levy certain taxes.

Commission chairman Paul Manning said he definitely agrees they need maintenance.

“We have looked at many roads throughout the past weeks,” Manning said. “This is a big step, but one I believe is necessary and beneficial for the future.”

Commissioner Jeff Brown said this tax was necessary to continue to do the level of work on roads in the county.

“We had to make this move in order to keep doing what we’ve done in the past,” Brown said. “I feel good about it.”

Commissioner Tommy Bowers said this hit home with him when he and the other commissioners took a tour recently to look at roads throughout the county.

“We also visited other counties to see what they are doing,” Bowers said. “To match what other counties are doing, we’ve got to have the money. (County engineer) Dan Dahlke has done a great job putting together what he needs and what we’re spending. In order for us to protect the citizens of the county and have good roads for our county residents to travel on, this is the only thing we could do. I am proud that we are going to review it in two years and see where we’re at with it.”

Commissioner Ken Crowe said this is probably one of the hardest decisions the commission has made in the past several years.

“There has been a lot of thought put into this,” Crowe said. “A lot of phone calls, and a lot of study. I think we had two options. One was to borrow money while the other was to add a tax. I would much rather add the tax than borrow the money and put ourselves in debt. I’m good with it, and we will see where it goes. In two years, we will be able to review it. At that time, we could rescind it if we wanted to. We are giving ourselves two years so we can actually see what it will do to us.”

Contact Gary Hanner at ghanner@thestclairtimes.com.

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