Committee may be formed for gas tax |

Committee may be formed for gas tax

staff reports

MINDEN – Douglas County will form a committee to check the feasibility of imposing a nickel-per-gallon gas tax.

County leaders will soon be looking for a handful of residents to gauge public opinion.

The county commission in September decided to present the tax to voters sometime in 2000. The commissioners have not taken an official stance on the gas tax other than to agree voters should decide, emphasizing that the board would not force a ballot question.

According to County Manager Dan Holler, the group would be responsible for researching the feasibility and the need for the tax, and making a recommendation on whether to put the item on the ballot.

Other options include phasing in the increase or imposing a lower increase.

If the committee recommends sending the question to voters, the group would be expected to assist in drafting a ballot question.

A 5-cent gas tax would generate an estimated $1 million per year that could be used for road projects. The county currently has more projects than money to fund them.

Holler says an advisory gas tax committee would be comparable to the committee that was used to promote a quarter-cent sales tax hike approved in 1998 to pay for several services.

That committee, known as PALS because it represented a parks, airport, library and senior alliance, rallied support for the increase. In the current case, Holler says, the committee would give “a better feel for the community’s desire on the gas tax question.”

Douglas voters repealed a 5-cent gas tax in 1994. County leaders haven’t taken a formal stance on the current proposal, preferring instead to present information and let voters decide for themselves.

Commissioners Bernie Curtis and Don Miner said they want the committee to explain the affects of the tax as well as the affects on services if a tax isn’t enacted. Gas tax revenues could be used to catch up on maintenance that has been deferred and upgrade county roads.

Commissioners said they expect resistance from residents of towns and general improvement districts because many of those entities already tax their residents for road upkeep.