This April voters in Elsberry will once again have the opportunity to approve a one cent fuel tax.
“We had it on the ballot once before and it failed,” said City Clerk Jo Ann Cordsiemon. “It has to pass by two-thirds or 66 percent and I think one of the reasons it failed the first time was because people really didn’t understand the tax. It’s not one percent, it’s one cent on every gallon and it would probably generate about $20-30,000 for the city of Elsberry to do street work.”
Cordsiemon added that should the tax pass this time, a person with a 20-gallon tank would only pay an additional 20 cents to fill it up.
“We have the cheapest gas around so one cent per gallon shouldn’t have an effect,” said Cordsiemon.
Those low gas prices can always change, however.
“We can’t guarantee that gas prices are always going to be lower than other municipalities,” said Brian Walter, manager of Abel’s Quik Shop. “Retail price [of fuel] changes based on whatever the market is doing and we usually catch up to the Troy, St. Peters and St. Louis markets eventually.”
Walter said he believes any tax on gasoline should be handled at the state level so that it’s imposed fairly across all municipalities.
Voters at the state level, however, may not be as sympathetic to the situation that Elsberry now finds itself in.
Cordsiemon said in years past the city received revenue sharing money that was used for street work, but those funds aren’t available anymore and haven’t been for quite some time.
In fact, the Federal Revenue Sharing Program was cut in 1986.
The loss of that money, coupled with a loss of sales tax revenue due to businesses leaving the area and a drop in the city’s population, has officials wondering about the future of Elsberry’s roads.
“We need extra revenue to keep up with the streets,” said Cordsiemon. “In the 80s we passed a ½ cent transportation tax, but that ½ cent does not keep up with the need for maintaining the streets.”
In recent years, the cost of maintaining the city’s streets has far exceeded the money taken in via the transportation tax.
In 2013 alone, for example, the cost of major street work in Elsberry was $73,260.00, while funds generated through the transportation tax amounted to only $58,743.36.
Walter doesn’t think the quality of the roads is on people’s minds when it comes time to fill up at the pump.
“Any taxes that are higher here will just drive consumers to buy gas in other towns,” said Walter. “If they see that our prices are higher on fuel because of a gas tax then they’ll wait and get it somewhere else. Personally I don’t think it will pass.”
Cordsiemon, however, is hopeful that voters will be more receptive this time around.
“I don’t think the word is really out there yet,” said Cordsiemon. “Most people don’t even know it’s going to be on the ballot. Hopefully we’ll get some better information out this time and make it more clear to people what it really is.”