The City of St. Petersburg could get about $2.7 million in additional revenue annually to pay for sidewalks, bridges and other transportation capital improvement projects under a gas tax hike being considered by the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners.
The tax hike proposal would add up to five cents a gallon to the price of every gallon of motor fuel sold in Pinellas County. County commissioners are expected to decide over the summer if they want to levy the additional tax.
On Tuesday, county commissioners agreed to a plan that would split tax proceeds between the county and municipalities, if the additional tax is enacted. Under that plan, the county would get 60 percent of the tax revenue collected. St. Petersburg would get 15.33 percent of the proceeds, Clearwater would get 6.69 percent, Largo would get 4.79 percent, Pinellas Park would get 3.07 percent, Dunedin would get 2.14 percent, and other municipalities would get smaller amounts.
The St. Petersburg City Council voted to approve the revenue split last week.
Pinellas County currently collects a six-cent gas tax and is allowed under state law to collect up to an additional five-cent tax, Claude Tankersley, St. Petersburg public works administrator, told the City Council on May 20. Thirty-six Florida counties, including Pasco, Manatee and Sarasota, already collect the full 11 cents although Hillsborough County does not, he said.
Fuel tax revenue has remained relatively flat for years, as cars have become more efficient and hybrid and electric vehicles become increasingly prevalent, but the city’s capital improvement transportation needs have risen steadily, Tankersley said.
“Every year, we have about $18 million in [capital improvement] projects that we cannot pursue,” he said. “We fear that with this continued gap we will start to see a significant increase in our level of service for transportation issues.”
The city could cut expenditures to match revenues and leave projects unfunded, or it could subsidize transportation projects from the general fund, at the expense of other city services. If Pinellas County enacts an additional five-cent tax, it still wouldn’t close the $18 million gap, but it would help, Tankersley said.
“We know that new sidewalks and sidewalk reconstruction, which are both eligible, we’re far behind on those. We know that we struggle to find money for bridges. Our comprehensive plan has that we are supposed to be milling and resurfacing 110 miles per year in the city. We’re getting only about 40 done. There’s a lot of needs. There’s more needs than revenue and the good part is that if this goes forward, we get to choose where that revenue will go,” he said.
The additional revenue could only be used for capital improvement projects, not maintenance, he said.
Gas taxes are paid by both residents and non-residents of Pinellas County. County Administrator Barry Burton said about 40 percent of the gas tax revenue comes from people who don’t live in the county.
Pinellas County commissioners have until Oct. 1 to notify the state if the county plans to enact the additional tax. It would take effect Jan. 1, 2022 if enacted.
County commissioners are expected to discuss the possibility of enacting the tax in July when they take up the proposed budget for fiscal year 2022.
Separately, the Pinellas board on Tuesday approved an agreement that transfers several miles of county roadway to the city of St. Petersburg. The transfers are designed to better define right-of-way maintenance responsibility in areas where jurisdictional boundaries are shared, county officials said.
The agreement includes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street North from 34th Avenue North to North Roosevelt Boulevard and Central Avenue from Sunset Drive to 34th Street South. The county will make a one-time payment to the city of nearly $1.8 million to resurface Central Avenue segments that were programmed in the county’s pavement management program.