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City Council votes to add 10-year sunset clause to measure for November ballot

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - The proposed fuel tax in Scappoose would fund sidewalk and street maintenance and repairs, which have deteriorated with insufficient maintenance. City staff say the lack of sidewalks along roads contributes to accidents.The Scappoose City Council voted earlier this week to refer a proposed 3-cent-per-gallon fuel tax to voters. The council also approved a 10-year sunset clause for the tax, meaning that the tax would only be levied for 10 years unless voters approve it again.

Despite city staff's recommendation that the tax not include a set end date, councilors said the sunset clause would make the tax more palatable to voters and allow the city to more clearly define sidewalk improvements the tax would fund.

Under the proposed tax, automobile fuel sold within Scappoose city limits would have a 3-cent-per-gallon tax, on top of existing state and federal taxes.

Revenue from the tax would fund sidewalk and road improvements in the city.

"The 2017 pavement report update indicated that the street maintenance backlog is approaching $2 million. The estimated annual revenue from a 3-cent local fuel tax would generate $300,000 per year, or $3 million over 10 years," Scappoose Program Analyst Huell White explained to the City Council at a recent meeting.

Fuel sale data provided to the city by the Oregon Department of Transportation show that roughly 10 million gallons of fuel are sold within Scappoose city limits each year, which equals $300,000 on a 3-cent-per-gallon tax.

"That would be sufficient to address the street maintenance backlog and conduct preventative street maintenance on a more regular basis, thus decreasing cost to the city in the long term," White said.

Revenue from the fuel tax is estimated to more than double the city's street and sidewalk budget.

"It'd be nice to say we're going to put sidewalks on every street that needs improvements, but the truth is this won't generate that kind of money," City Manager Mike Sykes said.

The funds will allow the city to conduct preventive maintenance before sidewalks deteriorate to a level where repairs would cost significantly more.

Compared to other sidewalk improvement funding options presented at the city's annual meeting earlier this year, the fuel tax will cost residents significantly less.

The majority of gas sold in Scappoose is purchased by drivers who do not live within the city, meaning the city will see revenue from fuel purchased by drivers stopping for gas in Scappoose as they pass through the city, according to city staff, who also estimate the tax would cost the average commuter from Scappoose to Portland or Hillsboro $1.20 per month.PMG GRAPHIC: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Fuel tax data from the Oregon Department of Transportation shows that the proposed fuel tax in Scappoose would bring total fuel taxes in the city closer to surrounding regions.

The tax will appear on the ballot alongside another measure that will increase expenses for Scappoose residents: a new property tax to fund Columbia County Rider bus services. The property tax would run 18 cents per $1,000 in assessed value, or $3 per month for a $200,000 home.

Multnomah County currently has a 3-cent fuel tax, while Washington County has a 1-cent tax. Portland has a 10-cent tax. On top of an 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal tax, Oregon has a 34-cent tax and Washington has a 49-cent tax.

Effective Jan. 1, Oregon's fuel tax will increase to 36 cents per gallon.

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