Gold Beach plans to ask voters in November to approve a gasoline tax to generate money for road maintenance in town, the city council decided Monday night.
If voters approve it, the city would implement a 1-cent tax on every gallon of fuel sold, and increase that to 4 cents per gallon from May 1 to October 31 each year to take advantage of tourists passing through. The tax would take effect Jan. 1, 2019.
The tax would not affect non-ethanol fuel used in two-cycle engines, lawn mowers or boats, the council agreed. Typically, that fuel is about a dollar more expensive anyway, said Mayor Karl Popoff.
“Nobody goes to an ethanol-free pump to avoid a tax,” said Councilor Tami Kaufman. “They do it because it’s better for their engine.”
Governmental entities that get their fuel from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) would not be taxed, either — although there was debate about that.
“We already get our gas at a wholesale rate (from ODOT) as it is,” said Councilor Melinda McVey. “Let’s not stir up a can of worms.”
Gold Beach has four gas stations that serve the public, and two ethanol-free pumps, Kaufman noted. Gas station owners would be reimbursed 5 percent of the revenue generated to recoup the cost of collecting the tax.
The city council then approved a resolution setting the tax rate, determined who would be taxed and how often revenue would be collected from gas stations.
“We’re killing quite a few birds with one stone trying to get it to the voters in a timely fashion,” said City Administrator Jodi Fritts.
Opinions skew to gas
The city conducted an informal study in January asking voters if they’d rather add a $5 fee to their monthly water bills or have fuel taxed.
Early on, the city reported it had received 66 responses.
“Some have been thoughtful and engaging; others have been snarky and ignorant,” the survey summary reads. “Overall it was an interesting exercise in the democratic process.”
Of the 197 responses received, most indicated they’d prefer a gas tax, 30 said they’d prefer a monthly fee on their utility bill and four said they wanted neither.
Some said the nexus between a fuel tax and road maintenance made the most sense.
“A tax on fuel is more fair to residents, since it taxes those who use the roads, which includes the vehicles that just pass through,” wrote one respondent.
“Why would we need to have charges on our water bill to pay for the road repair?” wrote one. “Let’s keep our water bill fees to pay for water-related issues.”
Equity and taxes were also addressed.
“Since we are talking about road repairs, this should be part of a gas tax,” a respondent said. “Why should homeowners be the only one to pick up the bill?”
“The price of gas fluctuates and varies all year long, so people won’t notice any real increase in price,” noted another. “Also, it would tap Highway 101 thru-traffic and should be more efficient. The cost of street repairs would be shared by a much larger group of people.”
“You all better look again for your money, somewhere else than my shallow pocket!!” wrote another.
“I am out-of-state, so gas taxes don’t work,” wrote one. “I would vote for the increment on the water bill.”
And, “I don’t care how you fund it. Just fix it right and keep the runoff out of my yard and put a speed bump in to slow the speeders on 11th Street.”
Another cited how well it is working in Brookings, which is collecting about $285,000 a year — just shy of its goal when it presented the ballot question to voters — for road maintenance. That 4-cent tax was first approved three years ago, and extended for five years in the primary election this spring.