Okaloosa gas tax to remain through 2044


TONY JUDNICH @Tonyjnwfdn

SHALIMAR — Okaloosa County’s overall 10-cent gasoline tax will remain in effect through 2044.

That was the end result Tuesday after the County Commission cast 4-1 votes on different parts of the overall tax. Commissioner Trey Goodwin cast the lone “no” votes.

Most commissioners agreed to extend the life of the first 6 cents of the local option gas tax as well as the 9th cent rather then let them expire later this year and by Jan. 1. Those approvals mean each portion of the 10-cent tax now has the same expiration date of Dec. 31, 2044.

While the county has sole use of revenue generated by the 9th cent, state law requires revenue from the other nine pennies to be shared among the county and its nine municipalities.

About $3 million in gas tax revenue makes up the bulk of the county’s $4.4 million road maintenance budget. Among other projects, the funds help pay to maintain 678 miles of paved roads, grade 196 miles of dirt roads once per week and mow 727 miles of right of way, county Public Works Director Jason Autrey told commissioners.

In addition, almost $2 million in gas tax revenue represents the lion’s share of the $3.3 million road and bridge construction budget.

“This is how we do our roadway improvements,” Autrey said. “It’s critically important that we keep what we’ve got.”

A Valparaiso resident, who was the only member of the public to speak on the gas tax issues, said he favors keeping the taxes in place because several roads in his area need improvement.

However, Goodwin questioned the need to keep levying the taxes through 2044.

“We’re presupposing what our needs will be more than a quarter of a century from now,” he said. “I propose a 10-year sunset.”

But Commissioner Nathan Boyles said the new expiration date does not bind the hands of future commissioners, who he said could change the date if they wish.

Boyles added that he has more than 100 miles of dirt roads in his district that need paving, and that Commission Vice Chairman Graham Fountain has about 100 miles of such roads in his district.

Extending the life of the gas taxes “is not an issue that should be contentious,” Boyles said.

Commissioner Kelly Windes agreed. “I don’t think we need a crystal ball to determine that we’re going to have road needs for the full time of this extension,” he said.

Florida law allows counties to levy a gas tax of up to 12 cents per gallon.