County gas tax hike takes effect

Published: Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 2, 2008 at 5:27 p.m.

Welcome to 2008 and a sudden increase in gas prices, courtesy of the Alachua County Commission.

The gas tax increase of 5 cents a gallon approved by the commission last summer took effect Tuesday and dealers said they will be passing the cost on to buyers quite quickly.

"Ultimately it works its way into the cost. It just depends on how fast or what the competition does with it," said Pete Sodini, chairman and chief executive officer of Pantry Inc. of Sanford, N.C., which owns the Kangaroo convenience stores. "I will tell you a 5-cent increase in a business where last year we made 10 cents on the gasoline margin, it will get in quickly for us and everybody else."

The County Commission in June bumped the gas tax by 5 cents to a total of 12 cents a gallon to raise money for road improvements. The extra money is expected to bring in $5.5 million a year, of which the county will get about $2.8 million. The rest will go to Gainesville and some of the county's smaller cities.

County commissioners will spend 75 percent of the added revenue on road resurfacing, 15 percent on alternative surfacing for graded roads and 10 percent on sidewalk and bike projects.

Among the roads that will be resurfaced as the money becomes available are sections of N. 16th Avenue, NW 43rd Street, SW 62nd Avenue/63rd Street, County Road 235 and CR 231, said Dave Cerlanek, assistant public works director.

Not prioritized yet are the unpaved roads that will be surfaced with a material that will reduce dust but will not be as durable as regular paving.

Cerlanek said the resurfacing projects may have to be done one at a time.

"We'll need to have a discussion with the commission because the funding will be somewhat small," Cerlanek said. "The commission will have to set some policy on how we front the money."

If Sodini's previous experience holds true, some Alachua County residents may cross into neighboring counties to buy gas for a while.

Sodini said that happened when Volusia County upped its gas tax.

"We tracked it for the better part of a year. Does it influence consumer behavior? My God, yes," Sodini said. "People who live next to the county line what would you do for a nickel more a gallon? You are going to migrate across the line. Over time, the difference weakened."

Lewis Bohannon has owned Bohannons 1 Stop, a gas station and store on N. Main Street at 23rd Avenue, for 29 years. Bohannon said it is tough enough for an independent fuel dealer to compete with the chains, but he said he may lag before increasing the price.

Bohannon said he will likely start charging it when he gets a fresh delivery of gas. And Bohannon believes people who drive out of their way to another county to save a few pennies per gallon because of the tax are wasting time and money.

"We're not pumping much right now. I'm selling for about what they are charging me for it," Bohannon said. "As much as this stuff costs, you're crazy to drive two blocks (out of your way). You're wasting your car, your time, your tires. That's really silly."

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