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The gas tax could generate $300K, nearly doubling the city's budget for street improvements

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Though the majority of Scappoose residents travel along Highway 30, most drivers on the road each day are just passing through. A gas tax would mean all drivers who fuel up in Scappoose would contribute to the citys street improvements, but it could threaten business for the citys gas stations.The Scappoose City Council unanimously voted to authorize staff to prepare a ballot measure for a local fuel tax for the November election.

If approved by voters, the measure would add a 3-cent per-gallon tax on gasoline sales in Scappoose. Those funds would go toward paving and other transportation projects in the city's Transportation System Plan.

A 2017 pavement analysis found that the city's streets averaged a rating of 72 on a scale where 70 to 100 is good, 50 to 70 is fair, and less than 50 is poor or very poor.

"We were at the very bottom of 'good,' two years have gone by, it likely slipped a little bit from there," said Dave Sukau, the city's public works director.

City staff estimated that 80% of the revenue from the gas tax would be paid by commuters passing through the city, rather than residents, according to a status report prepared by city program analyst, Huell White.

Data from the Oregon Department of Transportation show that roughly 10 million gallons of fuel are sold in Scappoose each year, according to the resolution approved earlier this month. If fuel sales remained the same, the gas tax would bring revenue of $300,000 annually for the city.

The increase in fuel costs are a key concern for both residents and local business owners.

Gas stations could see a drop in customers if there are easily accessible alternative stations with lower fuel prices, but city councilors said the price increase is unlikely to outweigh the convenience and prices of gas stations in Scappoose.

The Public Works Department is aiming to have $350,000 annually for street maintenance; $50,000 annually for streetlight maintenance, and $190,000 annually for improvements. Currently, the streets budget includes $538,717 in expenses, of which $307,713 goes toward materials and services and capital projects.

According to city staff, raising $300,000 through the gas tax would cost residents less than alternatives like a transportation utility fee. That fee would be $10 per month, while a property tax levy would be $13. For someone who uses 40 gallons of fuel each month, the tax would only increase costs by $1.20 per month.

"We're in a lucky situation, we have a lot of pass-through traffic and we have Fred Meyer's and these other gas stations that fill those people up," Sukau said. "This is a very favorable thing for us because we get to capitalize on other people outside of our city helping us to maintain it, which is a huge, huge benefit."

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