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Decreasing gas taxes threaten Longboat road projects

At least three roadway projects — including two roundabouts and an additional center turn lane — could not happen as the town has planned for lack of funding from gas taxes.

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  • | 8:00 a.m. June 27, 2018
  • Longboat Key
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Revenue to Longboat Key in the form of gas taxes earmarked for roadway improvements has been declining for much of the past decade, posing a challenge to a town with millions of dollars in planned infrastructure projects in the next five years.

Longboat Key does not have the funding it needs to construct $3.7 million worth of road improvements that include a center turn lane in front of Country Club Shores and two roundabouts on either end of the island as a result of a decline of $73,363 — or 15.16% — in gas taxes since 2009, said Finance Director Susan Smith. 

Manatee and Sarasota drivers pay 36 cents a gallon in local and state gas and sales taxes, according to state records. Another 18.4 cents a gallon goes to the federal government.

In 2017, Longboat Key received $410,529.28 in gas tax revenue from the state. 

Gas taxes are collected by the Florida Department of Revenue and distributed to each county based on how much gas tax it collected. 

The county parcels out the money to municipalities.

“The money has to come from somewhere,” Smith said. “If it doesn’t come from gas taxes, it’s got to come from somewhere.”

Gas tax collection is decreasing for a few reasons, said Leigh Holt, strategic planning manager with Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Cars are more fuel-efficient and therefore need less fuel to get around. 

But, because gas taxes are assessed per gallon, and not as a percentage of the price, fluctations at the pump do not affect collections.

More vehicles are also using electric energy — whether as a hybrid or electric vehicle — rather than gasoline, putting a strain on how much the state collects in gas taxes each year.

There are a few sources of revenue the town could access if needed to complete these projects, Smith said.

One source, town officials could petition the Florida Department of Transportation for more funding for improvements on Gulf of Mexico Drive, a state-maintained roadway.

“These are state-owned roads, and the state should be taking care of them, not us,” Smith said. “The state is supposed to take care of their own roads.”