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Pensacola, Escambia County Weigh Gas Tax Revenues

  The County Commission is expected to revisit debate on handing out revenue from the six-cent-per-gallon levy to the county, Pensacola, and the Town of Century for road paving and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“There’s been a formula between the city and county for a significant amount of time, and that formula every 10 years has to be renewed. We are at the time of that renewal,” said Escambia County Commission Chairman Grover Robinson. 

The proposal, tabled last September, would cut Pensacola’s share from 18.5 percent to about five and a half percent a 72 percent decrease which translates to about $11 million less over the next decade. 

That’s not sitting well with Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward. 

“Last year when this came up, it was not good for the citizens, and obviously we want to work it out,” Hayward said. “But when you get hit with that and say ‘Hey, we’re going to cut it to eighteen-five it’s not a good thing.”

County Commissioner Grover Robinson points to differences in the two formulas in explaining the steep difference in percentages.

“The city has asked for the traditional renewal percentage [based on] population,” Robinson said. “Whereas, there’s a little bit of a different calculation that is related to miles of roads. [But] miles of roads don’t totally equate to mileage driven. The difference is about two million dollars.”

While the gas tax has remained fairly constant for the past three decades, the Commission’s job, says Robinson, is to come up with a percentage that’s pleasing to both county and city.

Meanwhile Dick Barker, the City of Pensacola’s Chief Financial Officer, is proposing an “end run” of sorts, to ensure that any cuts inflicted by the county can be filled in as needed.  

“To bond the proceeds from the Local Option Gas Tax,” says Barker. “Take those proceeds and do the improvements in the city over the next three years.”

The bond issue would raise up to $15 million, equal to the roughly $1.5 million, in principal and interest, received by the city from the tax per year for ten years. That in turn would generate about $14 million for road projects. 

The bond issue must get City Council approval. Barker made a presentation to the panel on Monday, during the Council’s agenda conference. Mayor Ashton Hayward, meantime, is optimistic that a deal can be reached with the Escambia County Commission relatively shortly.  

“We want to make sure that we have the dollars to resurface and take care of the street improvements and ADA improvements,” said the Mayor. “We need a distribution formula by September 1. Of course we would like to have a ‘win-win’ with the county.”

For Escambia County Commission Chair Grover Robinson, this is the eleventh hour to get something done for distributing Local Option Gas Tax monies. 

“It comes down simply to what a majority of the [Commission] wants to do,” Robinson said. “At some point on Thursday we’re going to have to take a vote.” 

The Escambia County Commission meets at 9:00 a.m. Thursday morning in its chambers downtown. The Pensacola City Council meets Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.