NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County residents soon will be asked if they want to pay for road maintenance with a 5-cent increase to the gas tax or a hike in property taxes.
The survey would help county commissioners decide which option — if any — is the best bet for meeting Pasco's growing maintenance costs.
"We've not done a very good job maintaining our roads," said Chief Assistant County Administrator Michele Baker, who explained that the extra dollars would restore funding to 2008 levels. The increase would not pay for any new road projects, as the county has the Penny for Pasco sales tax, mobility fees and other sources to pay for those.
The question will be included on a survey that will be posted online and mailed to some residents.
It also will be asked at a series of town hall meetings across the county.
The results will help guide commissioners when they develop a budget for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
A nickel increase in the gas tax would cost the average driver about $37 a year, while a property tax increase would cost about $21 for the owner of a $100,000 house with a $50,000 homestead exemption.
Commissioners made no decisions Tuesday but will continue to discuss the matter at a June 4 workshop.
Pasco County currently charges a gas tax of 7 cents per gallon. At a workshop last month, staffers made their case for increasing it up to 5 cents more per gallon.
The extra $7.7 million would free up other money to shore up the county's dwindling road maintenance fund.
Administrators blame rising insurance costs, aging equipment, more roads and more sidewalks, which require more edging to maintain their appearance. Staffers noted that the county's road maintenance fund, which had $8.9 million in 2008, now has $6.3 million. At the same time, the number of lane miles needing county maintenance has increased by 240 over the past five years.
"It's not going to get any better," County Administrator John Gallagher told county commissioners last month. "It's getting worse." He said the best option for coming up with additional revenue is raising the gas tax.
Doing so would require "super-majority" support from at least four of the five county commissioners. In order to start collecting the revenue Jan. 1, commissioners would need to vote on the idea before Oct. 1.