Many local communities are supporting an increase in the state's gas tax, saying the additional revenue would help them fix aging roads and other infrastructure.
The Ohio Department of Transportation on Thursday released an estimate of how much more revenue cities, villages and townships would get each year if the state increases its share of the tax from 28 cents to 46 cents.
In Summit County, the extra revenue ranges from a high of $3.8 million in Akron to a low of $21,362 in Peninsula. Meanwhile, Cuyahoga Falls would receive another $1.2 million and Barberton would get an additional $551,077.
"I never want to raise taxes, but I think this is a fair and needed request," said Barberton Mayor Bill Judge, whose community would see its gas tax revenue jump from $757,807 to $1.3 million under the proposal. "This would have an immediate, positive effect for the city of Barberton with our streets and our infrastructure."
ODOT introduced the tax increase as part of its biennial transportation budget before the Ohio House Finance Committee. The proposal calls for the hike to go into effect July 1, with increases in subsequent years tied to the consumer price index. In addition to revenue increases for municipalities, counties also would see a $1.6 million bump.
The state agency estimated that the increase would raise $1.2 billion in the first year, with local communities receiving about 40 percent. ODOT has argued that the current tax isn't enough to maintain roads and bridges, and complete major projects. The state agency says the average motorist who drives 13,000 miles a year would pay an additional $2.65 a week for a 2015 Ford F150 with a V8 engine or $1.61 for a 2015 Honda Accord.
"It is my hope that most Ohioans will understand the importance of responsible transportation funding to ensure their roads are well-kept and their children can get to school safely," ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks said while testifying before lawmakers. "These are dollars that are guaranteed to stay right here in Ohio, improving the roads we drive on every day. These dollars will help keep our economy healthy. We know that strong infrastructure attracts investment and jobs and opportunities for Ohioans and we have a responsibility to keep it well-kept."
Ohio's gas tax is below the national average and lower than four of its five neighboring states. Only Kentucky is lower.
Judge isn't alone in his support. Other municipalities also would welcome the increased revenue.
Akron would receive $9.2 million in the first year, up from $5.3 million.
“It is no secret that Ohio is in desperate need of investment in its infrastructure," Akron Director of Public Service John Moore said. "In Akron, a recent influx in dollars devoted to city streets, thanks to Akron voters, has helped fill the gap. But even with current state allocations, years of disinvestment has put the state and the city at a significant disadvantage when it comes to properly maintaining streets, bridges and highways. Akron would welcome the increased funding needed to support our public infrastructure.”
Boston Township Trustee Amy Anderson isn't happy about having to pay extra taxes. But she said she sees the benefit the extra revenue — an estimated $61,514 more for a total of $151,989 — would provide to the small community, which is engulfed by the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and has difficulty paying for road work. The township maintains about 12 miles of roads.
"We certainly could put it to good use," she said.
New Franklin Mayor Paul Adamson said his community has been using chip and seal on roads instead of paving because it's less costly. Its road department also is understaffed, he said. The city would receive an additional $429,342, or total of $1 million under the proposal.
"There are people who aren't happy with chip and seal. But we can't afford to pave," he said. "We've been fortunate enough to keep up [with road maintenance] but just barely. This is a breath of fresh of air for us."
Ultimately, the increase would result in "better service to the people," Adamson said.
The Columbus-based Ohio Municipal League, which represents cities and villages around the state, is endorsing an increase, but it'd like to see a bigger one. The lobbying group prefers a 24-cent increase phased in over three years through 8-cent increases.
"We appreciate that they are looking at raising the tax by 18 cents but we know that isn't going to match the need of our members," Executive Director Kent Scarrett said. "We are really hopeful that the legislature will increase that gas tax to a higher number."
He added that the state also needs to discuss "below ground" infrastructure such as sewer and water lines.
"This is only one half of the conversation," Scarrett said.
Sorry, but your browser does not support frames.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.