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HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Council seems open to local gas tax

Written March 21st, 2017 by Hasso Hering

Traffic on Ninth Avenue on March 4: An Albany gas tax looks possible.

The Albany City Council seems open to the idea of putting a local gas tax before the voters this fall. That’s the impression I got after catching the tail end of a council work session on Monday.

The council had a presentation — again — on the need for more revenue for street maintenance and repair. Jeff Blaine, director of public works engineering, gave a list of options for raising what he said is needed to keep arterial and collector streets in a reasonable condition, which most of them still are. About $5 million a year is needed to maintain the main roads to avoid the need for full reconstruction later, according to the staff’s estimate. The city now spends about $1.6 million a year on streets, leaving a “funding gap” of $3.4 million a year.

I missed most of the meeting because of another commitment. But toward the end, there seemed to be a consensus that a local gas tax –3 cents a gallon was mentioned — should be part of the mix. Mayor Sharon Konopa suggested that the staff prepare more information on the gas tax option by August, close to the time when a decision has to be made to place a measure before the voters in November. This was greeted by murmurs of assent and nodding of heads.

There are no reliable figures for how much a gas tax would raise. But one estimate is that a 3-cent tax would result in annual city revenue of $750,000. Albany voters rejected proposals for a local gas tax in 1982 and 1991.

Councilman Rich Kellum said he’s not ready to sign on to the gas tax option unless the council also redirects some general fund revenue toward the street fund. Years ago, a portion of electric and natural gas franchise tax revenue was dedicated to street work, but a later council shifted that money to the general fund because of “competing priorities,” in the words of the staff presentation. Restoring this money to streets would mean about $1.2 million a year more for pavement and such.

One flaw in the discussion, as far as I heard it, was that it concentrated on the main streets, the arterials and collectors. Those are not the streets that cause most of the complaints about Albany streets. The complaints are about the side streets in the older sections of town, where the pavement is pockmarked by cracks and deep holes.

Maintaining the main streets makes sense for many reasons. But voters would have little reason to approve a local gas tax or any other funding source, such as a bond issue, unless it also included the promise of a fix of the streets that threaten to shake apart their cars. (hh)

 



19 responses to “Council seems open to local gas tax”

  1. Terrt says:

    BS. Stop inventing new taxes.
    I will vote NO and I will actively do my utmost to prevent passage.

  2. Leroy says:

    There was no good reason to extend the sidewalks around the post office except to impede traffic. Use some of that gas tax that is already stolen to remove that garbage. I don’t buy the tax is for street improvement. I believe it was in ’95-’96 when Albany tore up the streets and did a beautiful job laying a new surface. No more than that job was done the city cut down the center of most of those streets for a sewer system upgrade, that is why Albany city streets are rough.

  3. Brian Petersin says:

    I agree stop inventing new taxes. Utilize the money we give you in appropriate ways so we don’t have to keep on paying money for inappropriate expenditures. FML I work my butt off to scrape by to have $0.03 taken here six cents taken here nine cents taken here $0.12 taken here; it adds up. All the while you’re paying 17 people $32.73 an hour prevailing wage to do something that me and my buddies can do for a six pack; get real. And we wonder why democracy is going to shit. Trump might be onto something cut the excess money coming in and maybe people will utilize the money appropriately. I will definitely be voting no on this deal.

  4. Rhea Graham says:

    Where have the funds gone that were in the budget for road repairs? SURELY it has been in the budget since time began, or at least since the streets were first paved in Albany. Street and road maintenance isn’t something that has just been dumped on us.

  5. Robert kahn says:

    ANOTHER TAX!!!!!! There seems to be some kind of understanding on the council that the citizens of Albany have unlimited access to funds. Have any of these beauracrats realized that if they impose an Albany gas tax that people will buy gas elsewhere? I know I will.

  6. tom cordier says:

    This is what all governments do at every level. How much money do they “need”?
    Answer is MORE. Same with the $159M GAPS school Bond on ballot 16May this year.
    Vote no on that one too.

    • Shane says:

      Welcome to reality. These things need dealt with whether you like it or not. Yes they do need more than they used to. Aging infrastructure is expensive. I’ll certainly be voting yes. I’m happy to pay my fair share to make the community something we can be proud of and give our kids the tools they need to be successful.
      Would love to see just how perfect your fantasy world really would be.

  7. Tony White says:

    Go ahead. I’ll drive fifty miles each way to avoid this tax if necessary. There are lots of gas stations under the sun (maybe the Millersburg Love station will be in by the time they get this through).

  8. Ray Kopczynski says:

    The gas tax is but one option that was presented. This “can” is another one that multiple councils have kicked down the road for many years. We were simply presented with serious ramifications of continuing to doing nothing.

    Full-information of our Transportation Funding discussion on Monday, 03/20 here:
    https://www.cityofalbany.net/city-council/meeting-agendas-minutes-video
    Download & read the “Packet.” You can also listen to the audio .mp3 file.

    None of the options will even remotely solve the road-infrastructure by itself. It will require a combination of several — none of them easy. if it was “easy,” it would have been done years ago. EVERY community in Oregon and the nation is in the same boat as far as ongoing road infrastructure maintenance goes… Hard choices will have to be made down the road. Period.

    Some well-intentioned folks opine driving long distances to save on a tank of gas. As of yesterday, I noted a 16-cent difference in gas prices — just in Albany alone. And Corvallis/Lebanon is more expensive. If you feel it more efficient to waste 30+ minutes of your time (and the gas to get there) to save 2-5 cents on your tank of gas — that is your option for sure.

  9. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    A 3 cent gas tax will add $750,000 to the general fund?

    If the council repealed CARA and paid off their debt, that action alone would allow the city to re-capture the money CARA siphons each year from the city’s general fund. In Tax Year 2016-2017 CARA took $960,304.02 (see website below).

    But the council doesn’t want to give up its slush fund, and keeping the slush fund full is the council’s highest priority.

    The general fund can’t afford fire and police? No problemo, impose a levy. The general fund can’t afford streets? No problemo, impose a new tax.

    Imposing levies and taxes to fill voids in the general fund are a direct, and foreseen, consequence of allowing CARA to suck money from essential needs.

    And as long as Albany property tax payers and voters look the other way, this vicious cycle will continue.

    http://www.co.linn.or.us/assessorshomep/docs/2016/SAL4E.pdf

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      If you listen to the audio, you might be surprised at the “Other” options that were floated at the Q/A from councilors at end of presentation…

      • hj.anony1 says:

        Ray, do you have a timestamp on the .mp3 re: “other options discussed”?

        I spent some time listening towards the end of the file. Talk of importance of continuity of a “group”. One councilor spoke…not sure which as I don’t have voice recognition down just yet… and he said “…imagine if this body left and you had 7 new people sitting in these chairs. It would not just be difficult. You’d have all kinds of mistakes made all the time!”

        I chuckled thinking about all the possible reactions of some of my fellow commenters to such a statement. Chuckling still !

        Anyways….love to hear all the other options chatted about….thanks.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          As I participated, I haven’t listened to the audio recording, so I don’t have said “time stamp.” However, my comments was aimed directly at Gordon Shadle’s comment[s] about CARA. Why? Because before Hasso arrived on scene, I very specifically floated 3 additional options for consideration:
          1. Earmark the money received from sale of the Armory to Linn County.
          2. Earmark & use CARA money available for infrastructure improvements solely for street repair inside the allowable URD boundary.
          3. Close/end CARA and earmark 100% of the annual money the city would have been given to CARA – towards the city street maintenance (by priority) across the entire city.

          • hj.anony1 says:

            Well the person you speak of seems to have moved away but left his heart in good ol’ Albany. Cares too much or holds a deep grudge? Just like our Comrade tRump.

  10. Craig Ziegenhagel says:

    Hasso, you need a like button so I can like all of the above comments. I have an idea for all our local governments, cut every department by 15% and no new taxes. Learn how to manage your budgets without increases just like families have to. Enough is enough, no more taxes !

  11. Shawn Dawson says:

    Put me down as for this tax — assuming the money is wisely spent (i.e. no fancy bulb-outs and what not).

    I am adamantly against the school bond though, as that has way too much un-necessary work.

    • Terry says:

      Until the city government demonstrates the ability to spend current monies wisely absolutely NO!
      Our streets need repair, there is no doubt!
      However they MUST stop the frivolous spending!
      Bulbouts, promenade, CARA, carousel and much more! We were FORCE FED the fire/police bond all while they spend money on unnecessary items. And a new high school is next.
      People wake up! These Jokers need to go!

 

 
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