City cool to gas tax plan


Published: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 11:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

Sun staff writer

Gainesville city commissioners gave a chilly reception Monday to plans by their Alachua County colleagues that would have the city forgo its share of revenues from a proposed 5-cent gas tax increase.

Commissioners said county officials had yet to give them any reason to either support the tax increase or to give up a share of the new revenue.

The discussion came as a response to recent suggestions by county commissioners who have proposed increasing the gas tax from 7 cents to 12 cents to address transportation deficiencies in the county.

Under state formulas, Gainesville is entitled to about half the gas-tax revenue generated in the county because of its population, Gainesville officials said.

"There are as many needs, it seems, in the city as in the wider county, and the idea that we'd give up our portion is very unlikely," Commissioner Jack Donovan said during Monday's meeting.

Other commissioners said they did not believe the county had provided a clear idea of what the money would be used for or done the work to convince residents or elected officials that they should support higher gas prices.

"It seems like we've flip-flopped the process here," Commissioner Rick Bryant said.

If the county wants the city's support, "put together a program, work with us and try to get our support for it," Bryant said.

County Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut, who was not at the meeting, said she hoped to talk about the issue in more detail at a joint city-county meeting at the end of the month. Chestnut said city commissioners should remember projects for which the county had offered assistance, such as work on the countywide traffic signal system that is run by the city.

"I think there have been some cooperative efforts made," Chestnut said. "All I'm asking is they help the county at this time to address the potholes and congestion problems facing the county, of which the city is a part."

Increasing the gas tax requires approval of four of the five county commissioners or a simple majority of voters in a ballot referendum.

City Commissioner Ed Braddy said any gas tax should go before the voters rather than be imposed by elected officials. But if a gas tax is passed, the city should not give up its share without a fight.

"We're in a position of strength, commissioners, in terms of our negotiations with the county," Braddy said. "One of my criticisms in the past is it seems we've been rolled by the county."

Jeff Adelson can be reached at 374-5095 or adelsoj@ gvillesun.com.

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