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Low gas prices or better roads?

Zoe Greszler • Jun 20, 2019 at 9:00 PM

The statewide gas price hike goes into effect in just 11 days, July 1, and there are many concerns and opinions throughout the community. 

State lawmakers approved an increase of 10.5 cents per gallon for gas and 19 cents a gallon for diesel. That’s enough to provide a hefty increase to local governments — one that will fund more road construction.

Norwalk was scheduled to get about $613,000 for the 2020 fiscal year, which starts July 1. The gas tax hike will raise that by about $387,000, giving the city a total amount of about $1 million, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.

That’s a nice chunk of change that will represent a big boost to Norwalk’s efforts to improve its streets.

The existing 28-cent gas tax is divided 60 percent to ODOT and 40 percent to local governments and that split will remain, said Matt Bruning, an ODOT spokesman.

But the additional gas tax will be split 55 percent for ODOT and 45 percent for local governments — meaning more money can go into making the roads smoother and safer. But that comes with a cost at the pump, of course. That cost has some baulking at the new tax.

The Reflector asked area residents in relation to the new tax, which they’d prefer — lower gas prices or better roads?

Many expressed cynical sentiments similar to John Cole, who said, “we have neither, so that question is a (moot) point.”

Most people said they favor lower gas prices.

“Low gas prices... (because) the roads will still be (crap) with or without the gas hike,” Bradley Winkle said. “The money will go into someone’s pocket — not the roads.”

James Myers Jr. expressed concern of how the tax will effect the cost of other things.

“Everything in price is going to go up,” he said. “We will be paying more for food and everything else, and with all this rain, get ready to pay higher prices besides the hike from the fuel tax. Hope you can afford what's coming.”

A few though, like Bob Poole chose to look on the bright side of things, noting that the “repairing roads also means jobs,” something he said he views as a “good thing.”

Dan McElhatten agreed, adding the benefits will have a longer-lasting effect.

“Most people can cut back on unnecessary driving, thus paying less,” he said, “But the more roads deteriorate, the faster they deteriorate exponentially.”

Another area resident, Dave Eavey, said the real question is why is gas so expensive in Norwalk, compared to other local areas.

“There is such a disparity and gas prices Norwalk (are) always the highest. I purchased gas in Avon this past weekend for $2.19; (there’s) something wrong with that picture,” he said. “I guess I don't mind the gas tax. I would just like to see not such a higher price and (in) different cities. I think 40 cents is quite a disparity (in) prices.”

 

 

SANDUSKY — The state’s gas tax hike, which takes effect July 1, is paving the way for local governments to do more road construction.    

State lawmakers approved an increase of 10.5 cents per gallon for gas and 19 cents a gallon for diesel. That’s enough to provide a hefty increase to local governments.

Sandusky, for example, was scheduled to get about $816,000 for the 2020 fiscal year, which starts July 1. The gas tax hike will raise that by about $510,000, giving Sandusky a total amount of about $1.3 million.

Eric Wobser, Sandusky’s city manager, said that will represent a big boost to the city’s efforts to improve its streets.

“Ultimately, it’s going to go into our local resurfacing program,” Wobser said.

The additional money will allow Sandusky to tackle fixing Warren Street from Monroe Street to Shoreline Drive, Wobser said.

The city has been putting about $1.2 million into its street resurfacing program, so the new money represents a boost of about 40 percent, Wobser said.

“It’s a great return on our tax dollars at the state level,” Wobser said.

Older legacy cities such as Sandusky have aging infrastructure and need to be able to carry out upgrades, so the money is needed, Wobser said. The efforts of the governor and the Ohio House and Senate in making the additional road money available are appreciated, he said.

Gov. Mike DeWine originally proposed a gas tax hike of 18 cents per gallon for gas. That would have given Sandusky a revenue hike of about $600,000.

Lawmakers trimmed the proposed increase but also changed the formula to aid local governments.

The existing 28-cent gas tax is divided 60 percent to the Ohio Department of Transportation and 40 percent to local governments, and that split will remain, said Matt Bruning, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation.

But the additional gas tax will be split 55 percent for ODOT and 45 percent for local governments.

The Erie County Engineer is among the local offices getting a substantial boost. The office, originally scheduled to get about $2.4 million in 2020, now will get about $3.9 million, an increase of about $1.5 million.

All of the county engineer’s offices are getting the exact same amount of money, Bruning said.

The more populous counties, however, benefit from getting much more road and bridge money from vehicle registrations, such as when people renew their car tags, he said.

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BREAK-OUT BOX

 Government        2020 gas tax money      Increase

• Sandusky           $1.3 million                    $510,000

• Norwalk              $1 million                       $387,000

• Fremont              $965,000                       $371,000

• Vermilion (city)    $696,000                       $268,000

• Huron (city)         $481,000                       $185,000

• Port Clinton        $360,000                        $138,000

• Perkins               $221,000                        $100,000

 

 

 

Note: Figures rounded

SOURCE: Ohio Department of Transportation. The 2020 gas tax money includes existing tax revenue plus the increase in the new transportation bill.  

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