The clock is ticking on a proposal to raise Okaloosa County’s gas tax.
County commissioners must determine whether to raise the 7-cent-per-gallon tax up 5 cents, its maximum allowance under state law.
Alternatively, they could levy just 1 to 4 additional cents per gallon.
Or forget the whole thing.
Whatever they decide, the board must take action by July 1 so changes can take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
Commissioners last month sent a letter to the county’s municipalities informing them of the proposal. However, some Crestview and Laurel Hill city leaders have expressed concern for what they consider an indistinct idea. Both Crestview Mayor David Cadle and Laurel Hill Councilman Larry Hendren have called the proposal vague. More information is needed before they can render an opinion, they’ve said.
Meanwhile, north county residents otherwise averse to additional taxes may find some value in this one, as gas tax revenue must fund road pavements and repairs.
Road conditions are a hot topic in Laurel Hill, which has passages so poor that many residents believe dissolving the city is their best option. Becoming a county-run unincorporated community could solve a longstanding problem, they believe.
This is a city whose leaders in January waived their compensation to pay off public debts — a selfless and commendable action, indeed, but one that speaks volumes about the city’s prospects for funding sweeping road projects.
The council in March approved $75,000 for work on Sunnyside Avenue, and it’s seeking a $600,000 Community Development Block Grant for considerable assistance.
However, the Sunnyside project is a small piece of a problem that readers regularly debate on our Facebook and homepage. And the CDBG is not guaranteed; Laurel Hill applied for it last year unsuccessfully.
And whether Laurel Hill residents vote in favor of dissolving the city in next year’s referendum remains to be seen.
Still, county commissioners should carefully consider the bigger picture.
Raising the gas tax may provide revenue for necessary public improvements, but at what cost to private residents? Roaming businesses including pest control workers and plumbers may hike rates to cover the added expense — and then watch the dominoes fall.
A gas tax hike's extra revenue may cover the roads problem, but in this economy with furloughs, layoffs and doing more with less, higher taxes would profoundly affect residents with diminishing contents in their pocketbooks and non-existent savings.
And you can bet those residents will return the favor next election.
Time to tighten the fiscal belt and cut spending, commissioners. Just quiet that clock, and let this idea pass, pronto.
Email Crestview News Bulletin Editor Thomas Boni, email@example.com, or tweet him @cnbeditor.