Escambia County, City Of Pensacola Seek Gas Tax Agreement
The Escambia County Commission met in special session Thursday morning, on the distribution of Local Option Gas Tax proceeds. This was the first round of talks, with the Pensacola City Council taking up the issue this evening.
On a 4-1 vote, the Commission approved a lengthy motion to send a letter to the Florida Department of Revenue, outlining the distribution to be 85.5 percent to the county; 6.99 percent to Pensacola, and 0.81 percent to Century for road and infrastructure projects over the next decade.
“As well as our Board to the City Council, an interlocal agreement that includes the specific figure of 8.63 [percent], as an additional annual disbursement out of the county’s portion that would be spent primarily in the current city council districts five, six, and seven, said Commissioner Steven Barry.
The other part of the motion is for the Commission to conduct a yearly review of the plan. The split begins September 1 with the county’s new fiscal year, and will renew automatically on January 1, 2017. Next up is how the city reacts to the vote.
“And I’m going to assume that what would come before our board for that year’s plan is something that’s going to be sound and appropriate for my colleagues,” Berry said. “Especially that represent portions of the city.”
District-2 Commissioner Doug Underhill delivered the lone dissenting vote.
“Until we’re actually agreeing to our half of an interlocal agreement before we’ve seen the other half of the interlocal agreement, it seems to be, to me, and bad move,” said Underhill.
“Ray Charles could put on a pair of shades and ride from the east side to the west side and tell if the roads are different,” said Commissioner Lumon May, who also contends that there’s an imbalance in the amount of roadwork compared with the amount of gas tax paid by residents in his District-3.
“I live in that district; born and raised in that district,” May said. “And I’ve always tried to be a good corporate partner. But there’s no doubt and no question that the east side and west side looks [sic] differently. And I’m not going to sit here and cannily play games that it doesn’t.”
The Commission also heard from Pensacola’s Chief Financial Officer. Dick Barker is proposing the City Council take gas tax revenues to fund a bond issue. That proposal goes before the City Council this evening.
“What we’re bonding is $1.55 million, [the] average debt service over the ten years,” said Barker.
Commission Chairman Grover Robinson – who’s District-4 encompasses most of Pensacola – assured colleagues that the interlocal agreement would ensure the majority of the funds would be spent were most needed.
“In [city] Districts five, six, and seven as they stand in 2016, which would have taken care of much of the issue that Commissioner May mentioned,” said Robinson. “Everyone in the city pays the exact same millage as anyone else.”
Part two of the gas tax doubleheader is at 5:30 this afternoon, when the Pensacola City Council meets in its chambers in City Hall.