DADE CITY - Pasco County commissioners backtracked on a plan to recalculate how it distributes the county's gas tax revenue. But for the cities, Tuesday's vote was merely a reprieve.
Commissioners extended the current 6-cent per gallon gas tax, which was set to expire Aug. 31, and agreed to revisit the funding formula in a year. The vote postpones a plan that could have shifted more than $700,000 from the cities to Pasco County.
Each of the county's six cities passed resolutions opposing the change, and representatives from each city spoke against the recommendation from county staff to distribute gas tax dollars based on the cities' historical spending rather than the number of road miles each maintains.
County officials contend that the current formula ignores county transit expenditures and other transportation costs, such as sidewalks and trails. Chief Assistant County Attorney David Goldstein, who drafted the ordinance, said the cities receive a 10-percent bonus in gas tax revenue for maintaining county roads inside their city limits. "That's not happening," he said. "We believe the existing method is more of a handout than a hand-up."
San Antonio Commissioner Roy Pierce was one of several speakers who found that comment insulting. "Every single city has gone in with the county and shared the cost of repairing county roads in the city," he said.
Dade City Manager Billy Poe said Goldstein was relying on flawed data, pointing to a chart that purported his city had not spent any of its Penny for Pasco funds on transportation projects.
"We've spent $760,000 of our Penny funds on transportation," he said.
New Port Richey Councilwoman Susan Dillenger agreed, saying the county had not included the city's expenditures on Main Street and other projects that don't get reported to the state. "The city has paved county roads in the county, and we haven't asked for any more money," she said.
Zephyrhills City Council President Lance Smith said his city would be penalized because the council earmarked $4.6 million in gas tax and Penny for Pasco money to pay its share of widening County Road 54, but that project was delayed by Pasco County until 2014.
If the county distributes gas tax based on historical expenditures, it could cost Zephyrhills nearly 80 percent of its portion.
"We saved the money and put off other projects to accommodate the county's delay," Smith said. "We were willing to participate in 2008. Now it's frustratingly ironic that we're being penalized because we saved our money."
After two hours of testimony, commissioners had heard enough.
"At the last board meeting, I asked how this would impact the cities," Commissioner Henry Wilson said. "Today I found out. I don't think now is the time to change it."
Commissioners voted 4-1 to renew the gas tax and continue the current funding formula for one year. Commissioner Jack Mariano, who favored a two-year agreement, voted against the motion.
Commissioners will vote later this summer on a proposal to raise the gas tax as much as 5-cents per gallon.