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Cornelius voters say no to gas tax repeal


Cornelius voters appear to have defeated Measure 34-201, which would have repealed the city’s 2-cent per gallon gas tax.

As of 8 p.m. Tuesday evening, the measure was failing 53 percent to 47 percent in early results from the Washington County Elections Office.

The gas tax, which was approved in 2010 with 55 percent of the electorate voting yes, led to the elimination of the city’s streetlight fee and added funds to the budget dedicated to more asphalt overlay on city streets.

An estimated 40,000 vehicles use the city’s streets per day, even though Cornelius has fewer than 12,000 residents. The city also hosts five gas stations. Both residents and non-residents who fill up in Cornelius have to pay the gas tax, which funds the city’s street lighting and street repairs.

The money from the gas tax must be used for roadway improvements and cannot be moved out of the street fund for other purposes.

According to Mayor Jef Dalin, the tax provides four times more money than the city’s share of state or county gas taxes, and the money is guaranteed to stay in the city. Not only has the tax freed residents of the street lighting fee, but it’s also given the city funds to expand paving projects, he said.

City officials had not come up with a backup plan prior to the election to deal with a potential repeal of the tax. If it had been approved, the repeal would have gone into effect as soon as the ballot results were certified, usually no more than 30 days following the election.

The budget impact of a repeal would have represented a serious blow to the city, according to City Manager Rob Drake.

“We would lose half of a year of revenue right away,” Drake said last month. “There (would) be less done, period. Someone will have to pay for the lighting.”

When the city council revoked the streetlight fee after the gas tax raised $150,000 in revenue, the city cast its road-repair lot with the fuel tax, which raises roughly $163,000 per year.

The streetlight fee, which levied a $2 monthly charge against property owners, raised only $80,000 annually.