Residents weigh new vehicle tax against ‘critical’ infrastructure needsTweet
During a public hearing on a proposed $5 tax to Mahoning County motorists which would pay for county road and bridge projects, most voiced support. Others said they’re already taxed to the hilt.
The recently enacted Ohio House Bill 26 allows county commissioners to tack the fee onto vehicle registrations after hosting two public hearings – the second of which was in Boardman Township on Monday evening.
“Overall, I think it’s been an overwhelming ‘yes,’” county Engineer Pat Ginnetti said after the hearing, adding officials did not hear from any detractors during the first hearing last week in Green Township.
The law allows counties to spend proceeds from the tax on public roads, bridges and viaducts; street and traffic signs, markers, and signals; and capital-debt obligations. The tax is subject to a referendum.
The commissioners will now choose whether to approve a resolution to enact the fee. Twenty-one other Ohio counties already have, Ginnetti said.
Much of the engineer’s department’s funding comes from the state’s motor vehicle gas tax which, split evenly among all 88 counties, is too stagnant to fund all the road work that needs to be done, Ginnetti said. In addition, gas prices are at their lowest in 15 years, he said.
The proposed license-fee tax would generate about $1.3 million for the engineer’s department, which would nearly double funding for its paving program, he said. The first collection would be in January 2020. The first full cycle of the tax would be collected in March 2021, he said.
“One-hundred percent of this money is going into capital improvements – roads and bridges,” Ginnetti said.
He said road studies show more than 60 percent of the county’s roads are in poor or critical condition. Of the county’s 287 bridges, 125 are 75 years or older and 33 are listed in poor condition.
Ginnetti said levying the extra $5 could keep motorists from costly wheel or alignment repairs.
“For me, it’s really a no-brainer,” said Brian Hughes of Boardman. “Five dollars is certainly a small amount of inconvenience to improve the situation we have in front of us. We all know how bad the roads are.”
Others voiced concerns on the impact to households facing layoffs or subsisting on fixed income as well as the efficacy of a fee that would only bring in an additional $1.3 million.
“Five dollars to some people seems like no big deal. Five dollars for people that live on a fixed income is a big deal,” said Bobbi Terwilliger of Boardman, who said her 73-year-old mother lives on $1,200 a month. “Five bucks to her is a prescription. … She’s going to be forced with deciding whether or not to get that prescription or pay for her license plates.”
“Tax, tax, tax. I’m taxed to death,” she said, garnering applause.
Chance Metz of Austintown said he didn’t support the tax because it wouldn’t generate enough to get road jobs done right.
“Like a lot of people around here say, we’re taxed enough already. A lot of people just don’t want another tax,” he said.
“I can’t be in support of it personally. At the same time, I know you need to do a lot more.”