City to ask voters for seasonal gas tax
Conditt seeks public opinion on street funding
In November, the Estacada City Council plans to ask voters to approve a 3 cents per gallon May-September seasonal gas tax in an effort to raise money for city street maintenance and repairs.
The issue was discussed during a street funding presentation by City Councilor Michele Conditt and during the council meeting on Monday, July 28.
The citys street fund is fed by money from the state gas tax, which is distributed to cities based on population.
However, city officials say this is never enough to cover necessities and each year the city must transfer money from the general fund to the street fund.
The street fund has no stable funding source, Conditt said of the present situation.
The only time we are lucky enough to do a big street project is when we get a grant, City Recorder Denise Carey said.
City officials have long considered the scant street fund a problem.
Our streets are hitting the failing stage, City Councilor Sean Drinkwine said in April 2013. Theyve been in disrepair for years.
Estacada Mayor Brent Dodrill said the issue of how to fund street repairs had been discussed for as long as he had been involved with the council.
Several officials including Carey, Conditt, Drinkwine and City Manager Bill Elliott have publicly advocated a gas tax as the best option for boosting the fund.
However, in 2010, Estacada voters rejected a ballot measure to collect a 3 cent gas tax to fund street improvements in the city, which would have generated an estimated $150,000 for road repairs annually.
The Estacada News reported in March 2010 that according to unofficial results from the Clackamas County Elections Office, 72.2 percent of voters rejected the measure, while 27.8 percent voted yes for the gas tax.
I'm hurt that the citizens didn't see the long-term objective of this measure for our roads, Drinkwine told the paper in 2010. Some of our roads are in serious trouble, but the people have spoken. This is what they decided, and we're going to have to find a way around it to take care of our roads.
But the council has decided to give the gas tax another shot.
During her presentation on July 28, Conditt discussed options to boost the street fund.
Conditt said that while money may be transferred from the general fund, there is simply not enough to cover needed street repair projects.
Also, the more money transferred out of the general fund translates to reduced services in other areas.
Conditt cited police service, park maintenance and the citys new economic development position as examples of services paid for through the general fund.
Conditt also discussed a utility fee as an option, but explained that the burden would fall solely upon those within Estacada city limits.
Conditt then discussed a seasonal or permanent gas tax with revenue restricted to street fund use.
Conditt said she preferred this option as the burden would be paid by anyone who buys gas at one of the five stations in Estacada.
As Estacada has the last gas station stop on the Clackamas River before Detroit, Conditt said tourists are likely to contribute a great deal of revenue generated from the gas tax.
Conditt was visibly disappointed at the poor turnout to her presentation.
I was really hoping to get more people here tonight to kind of gauge if Im on the right track, she said.
She repeated that she believes that approval of a gas tax is a matter of education and that when explained, citizens will understand its necessity.
However, if citizens do not think street funding is a priority, Conditt said she would like to hear from them as well.
When the matter was discussed at the council meeting later that evening, Drinkwine said he preferred a seasonal gas tax to a permanent tax. Councilor Rob Gaskill agreed.
Councilors discussed a five-month gas tax from May to September, which is prime tourist season for people using the river and camping in the upper Clackamas Basin.
Councilor Paulina Manchaca said a five-month gas tax would be more appealing to voters than a half-year seasonal gas tax.
I think we all realize this is a tough sell, but its an important topic and we need to do all we can to get the word out over and over and over again, Dodrill said.
Dodrill said hed like to have critical facts such as why the council is proposing this and an estimate of the money the seasonal gas tax would raise in preparation for answering citizens questions on the matter.
The council agreed to ask the city attorney to word a ballot title asking for a 3 cent seasonal gas tax from May-September dedicated to street maintenance and repairs.
The council is expected to consider and approve the language of the ballot title at its next meeting on Monday, Aug. 11.
What do you think?
How do you feel about a seasonal gas tax? Councilor Michele Conditt would like to know and has offered to answer questions on the issue. Email her at email@example.com.
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