With the new transportation budget on the Ohio governor’s desk for signing, local schools and agencies that have vehicles to gas up are bracing for the hit.
The budget calls for a 10.5 cent per gallon gas increase to help pay for road and bridge projects. Diesel tax would also be increased by 19 cents, and compressed natural gas would be taxed at the diesel rate after a five-year phase in.
Brookfield Superintendent Velina Jo Taylor said every household will feel the burden of the increase and that could influence decisions at the polls when it comes to school levies.
“While that tax was not elected by the people, ours would be. The Board’s hope is that our residents will see past that and remember the permanent improvement levy is to help us maintain our schools and property, protect our students and staff, and improve our immersion in technology for 21st-century learning environments,” Taylor said.
Taylor said they are already anticipating how the gas tax increase will impact their transportation budget when it comes to buses.
“It will require that we re-allocate in order to anticipate the uptick in our expenses for our fleet of buses. This always involves difficult choices,” Taylor said.
In Mahoning County, commissioners need voters to approve a renewal of a portion of the local sales tax which pays for criminal justice services like the sheriff, prosecutor and coroner. They hope there’s no voter backlash.
“I believe the people of Mahoning County know that the three commissioners and all of the people involved in the justice renewal are very vigilant in watching for everything we do with the finances of Mahoning County,” said Commissioner Carol Rigetti.
She said she believes the sheriff’s department and justice system is very important to Mahoning County.
The final $865 million transportation budget was approved by the Ohio House and Senate Tuesday afternoon. It’s expected to go into effect on July 1.
Mahoning County Engineer said the gas tax will mean another $1.3 million for his office, and that means more money for road repairs.
“You know, our budget has been flat for almost 20 years. Gas tax hasn’t been increased since ’05,” he said.
Matt Bruning, with the Ohio Department of Transportation, said for years, there has been a rebate program in place for schools. He said it caps their state gas tax rate at 22 cents per gallon.
Bruning said school districts’ budgets should not be impacted by the gas tax increase, as long as they are applying for the rebate.
Editor’s note: Velina Jo Taylor has accepted a position as superintendent of the Lakeview School District. Her position there begins in August.