Gas tax increase important for Xenia streets

By Scott Halasz - [email protected]

XENIA — A proposed gas tax increase to help cover a $1.5 billion deficit in highway funds could help Xenia improve the city streets quicker.

Gov. Mike DeWine will ask the legislature to increase the gas tax from 28 cents per gallon to 46 cents per gallon, effective July 1, if approved in time. Overall, Ohio’s cities, villages, counties and townships would receive about 40 percent of the funding, ODOT said in a release.

That means Xenia will receive an estimated $1.4 million in 2020 — potentially increasing to nearly $1.6 million in 2024 — that can only be used for public streets, highways, roads, bridges and viaducts. Xenia currently receives approximately $853,000, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.

The increase of around $620,000 annually — about half of what the city asked for in the levy citizens defeated in November — will allow the city to address the deteriorating conditions of its 281 lane miles.

“It’s a bill that I’m very much in favor of,” said Xenia Finance Director Ryan Duke. “It definitely makes a difference.”

The city currently enhances the tax money with at least $500,000 annually as a result of citizens passing a half percent income tax increase several years ago. But it takes around $70,000 to mill and fill one lane mile so that general fund money doesn’t go very far.

The majority of the gas excise tax, which goes into city fund 221, is used on operations and personnel costs of maintaining roads including filling potholes, plowing streets, restriping, and maintaining traffic signals.

“Very rarely are those gas excise taxes used to pave the road, for new construction, or rehab,” Duke said. “This would allow us to actually have some dollars left in that fund to add to our annual street program.”

Duke said a quick survey of area cities shows that most use a majority of the tax money the same way Xenia does.

Ohio Revised Code 5735.27 indicates the amount received by each municipal corporation shall be used to plan, construct, reconstruct, repave, widen, maintain, repair, clear, and clean public highways, roads, and streets; to maintain and repair bridges and viaducts; to purchase, erect, and maintain street and traffic signs and markers; to pay the costs apportioned to the municipal corporation under section 4907.47 of the Revised Code (installing crossing signals); to purchase, erect, and maintain traffic lights and signals; to pay the principal, interest, and charges on bonds and other obligations issued pursuant to Chapter 133 of the Revised Code or incurred pursuant to section 5531.09 of the Revised Code for the purpose of acquiring or constructing roads, highways, bridges, or viaducts or acquiring or making other highway improvements for which the municipal corporation may issue bonds; and to supplement revenue already available for these purposes.

Personnel is also an allowable uses for the money, according to an ODOT spokesperson.

“It obviously takes people to maintain it,” Duke said.

The fund is also fully audited, Duke said.

“Every year they take a look at it,” Duke said. “We have to justify to (the state) … those costs.”

By Scott Halasz

[email protected]

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.