Jackie, 30, a mother of two children, ages two and seven, stepped out of her car Wednesday to put $5 of unleaded regular gas in her tank at a convenience store pump in Fernandina Beach. It was all she could afford.
Jackie works two jobs, including one making sandwiches at a local shop and the other stocking shelves and checking out customers at a dollar store. The pay isn’t enough to regularly maintain a full tank.
“Sometimes I only put $2 in,” she said. “Sometimes I ride on ‘E’.”
She was alarmed by news that the County Commission would consider raising the local gas tax to 12 cents per gallon, the maximum amount allowed by the state, to help pay for paving dirt roads next year.
“Are you kidding me?” she said. “I can’t afford that.”
Jackie’s bills include a $50 monthly expense for her youngest child to attend camp at the Boys & Girls Club. While she did not want to give her last name, Jackie hopes commissioners will reconsider any notion they have to fund next year’s budget with a higher gas tax.
“I don’t know people who can afford that,” she said. “Please tell them not to do that.”
The board will also consider a property tax hike that could raise the millage rate by one mill. At a budget meeting Wednesday morning, officials said expenses exceed revenues. The choices? Increase revenue or cut spending.
“Tell them to cut spending,” she said.
While Jackie doesn’t own a house, her mother does. “She’s going to have a heart attack,” she said.
Office of Management & Budget Director Justin Stankiewicz, who is also the assistant county manager, pushed the gas tax option. He said a 16-gallon gas tank would add 80 cents to a weekly fill up. Yearly, that calculates to about $42, he said. Mr. Stankiewicz said he collected numbers from the county’s Economic Development Board.
“The best part is that our non-county residents will be helping us pay for our roads,” he said.
Mr. Stankiewicz estimated that non-resident traffic makes up 30 to 35 percent of vehicles on local roads.
Increasing the gas tax requires a super majority vote. That means four of the five commissioners need to approve the higher tax to move ahead with implementation.
Commissioner Steve Kelley, who has in years passed opposed a gas tax increase, even by a penny, did not attend the meeting due to illness.
There are restrictions on spending gas tax revenue. County Manager Shanea Jones said collections can be used for new construction of roads, including paving dirt roads. The cash cannot be used for maintenance, such as filling potholes.
The board scheduled another budget meeting for June 21. Commissioner Pat Edwards said all funding options, such as the gas tax fees, should be on the table.
“We need to pull up our big boy pants and make a decision,” he said. “Are we going to move Nassau County forward?”
The Nassau County Commission includes:
Chair Danny Leeper: email@example.com (904) 430-3868
Commissioner Steve Kelley: firstname.lastname@example.org (904) 556-0241
Commissioner Pat Edwards: email@example.com (904) 335-0260
Commissioner George Spicer: firstname.lastname@example.org (904) 568-3409
Commissioner Justin Taylor: email@example.com (904) 625-5624
Note The Independent watched the budget meeting online at www.nassaucountfl.com.