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GAS TAX FALLS THROUGH CRACKS

A mix-up means the commission can't vote on raising the tax 3 cents a gallon.

As Hernando County officials grapple with how to provide needed services with less tax revenue, one of their options is off the table for now.

A mix-up over a legal notice for Tuesday's County Commission meeting means that the board cannot legally vote this year on increasing the county's gas tax by 3 cents a gallon. July 1 is the deadline for approving a gas tax increase.

"We screwed up the advertising on the gas tax,'' County Administrator Gary Kuhl told the Hernando Times in an editorial board meeting Thursday. "I'll take the hit for it. I'm responsible for it. It just didn't get done.''

Kuhl said that he could not justify calling an emergency board meeting on the gas tax before July 1.

In May, commissioners had agreed to hold a public hearing on the issue after Charles Mixson, county engineer and director of public works, urged them to consider the move.

He estimated that the tax would generate more than an additional $2-million a year for road improvements.

"This additional revenue is crucial due to cost increases associated with roadway construction and loss of general fund and transportation trust fund money,'' Mixson told the commission in an April memo.

He said Thursday that the gas tax money would have been added to the 3 cents a gallon tax the county already collects for pavement management. Those funds pay for maintenance, resurfacing and some widening and road upgrades.

Hernando County already levies 9 cents per gallon in gas tax. The state allows up to 12 cents per gallon. Approval of such a tax increase requires a vote of support from four of five county commissioners.

County Commissioner Diane Rowden said that, while the gas tax increase is a moot point now, she did not believe it would have gotten enough commission support anyway.

"I think timing is everything and I don't think the timing is right at this time,'' she said. "Just look at where the price of gas has been going.''

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

What's next?

The gas tax issue is dead unless a commissioner brings it up againe next year.

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