Brookings has mailed out informational pamphlets about a 4-cent fuel tax it hopes voters will reinstate at the ballots in May.
The tax sunsets in July.
The local gas tax was implemented in 2015 after voters approved it — and the city council promised to rescind the street System Development Fees (SDFs) charged to all city water customers.
The SDFs were not bringing in enough money to cover the increasing costs to maintain roads in town, and part of the idea behind the gas tax was to have all members of the driving public — notably, those who drive from California and fill their cars, boats and jerry cans — contribute to the cost of repairing streets as a more equitable way of distributing the expense.
The tax means a driver with a vehicle that gets 20 miles per gallon and drives 5,000 miles a year will pay 84 cents a month more if they buy their fuel solely in Brookings. Someone who drives 10,000 miles per year in that same car would spend $1.68 a month; and a driver who puts 15,000 miles a year on that car would spend $2.52 a month more.
Crafting the ordinance was a bit tricky, the council soon learned.
Local fuel purveyors — particularly Fred Meyer, the largest in town of three retail stations in town — would not divulge how much gas they sell, citing it as proprietary information. So, one councilor went to the big-box store, counted the number of fuel trucks that delivered gas and asked a driver how many gallons each vehicle carried.
With that in hand, city staff figured they could raise the $300,000 needed in each of the next 10 years with a 4-cent gas tax. In the original ballot measure, if revenue exceeded that, the gas tax was to be lowered.
But it was just about perfect, bringing in $282,321 the first year and $283,229, in 2016-17. This fiscal year, the city is on target to receive $280,000. By the end of this fiscal year, the city will have received and spent a total of $840,000 on street repairs using money from the local fuel tax.
And citizens haven’t complained too much, particularly as gas prices fluctuate so much anyway, city officials noted in past meetings.
“We do receive calls from residents wondering when we will be fixing their street and we have a five-year list at city hall listing major street repairs,” said City Manager Gary Milliman. “We also plan to do about about $100,000 a year in overlays on streets … that have a good base and surface but are starting to show a lot of cracking.”
Since the mailer went out, Milliman has received four calls from people asking when their street will be fixed, one call from a resident thanking the city for fixing the streets around town — and one from a resident who suggested raising the tax rate from four cents to eight cents.
Detractors of the tax in 2015 threatened to take their business to Harbor to avoid paying it.
Milliman noted regular-gas prices Thursday were $3.01 at the Conoco and $3.03 at Fred Meyer in Brookings, and $3.19 at the Chevron in Harbor.
Now, they are asking voters to reauthorize the tax, this time for five years and without the requirement regarding the revenue cap.
The tax, the notice reads, can “only be used for the construction, reconstruction, improvement, repair, maintenance and operation of streets” within city limits.
Some fuel taxes are exempt, as well, including those for commercial fishing boats, aircraft, farm equipment and off-road vehicles.