Mayor Hayward puts pressure on BCC re:Local Option Gas Tax

Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward is asking the Pensacola City Council to pass a resolution authorizing bonds up to $15 million to finance street work. The only problem is the Escambia Board of County Commissioners has not approved an interlocal agreement on the allocation of the county’s local option gas tax that would give Hayward the funds necessary to pay off the bonds.

According to Florida law, the gas tax revenue allocations are to be based on the road expenditures as reported in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR) of the past five years. Last summer, county staff calculated that the allocation percentage for the city should be 5.45 percent – 70 percent reduction from the old 18.22 percent. The city gas tax revenues would drop from $1.55 million to $463,600 — about $11 million loss over the life of the local gas tax. Read memo.

The negotiations for allocation of the renewed Local Option Gas Tax hasn’t gone well. Mayor Hayward had the City Council pass an interlocal agreement that modified the city’s percentage to 15.62 percent, reducing the loss over the 10-year life of the gas tax to $2.271 million. City staff argued that the CAFR transportation costs did not accurately reflect all eligible expenditures under Florida Statutes, and his CFO Dick Barker came up with other options.

When Mayor Hayward presented the city’s version of an interlocal agreement to the BCC late last September, he said, “The city is 39 square miles, 52,000-plus–whatever the number is (people). The county has more people, more money. We can’t afford to be taking million-dollar hits.”

Inweekly contacted Commissioner Doug Underhill after the mayor’s presentation. He said, “I had hoped that the city would recognize that this Board of County Commissioners has to consider the needs throughout the county. The extensive deferred maintenance issues in the rest of the county demand our attention and require us to focus our resources where they are most needed.”

Underhill said, “While we respect and admire the revitalization efforts in the city, we on the Board of County Commissioners must ensure that the rest of the county receives the services that the citizens deserve for the taxes they pay.”

The commissioners tabled the item and instructed Assistant County Administrator Amy Lovoy to work with Barker to work out an allocation percentage. Those negotiations went nowhere, although we have been told Assistant City Administrator Keith Wilkins has lobbied the commissioners.

The problem for the mayor is the city has few negotiating points. If the county and city can’t agree, the county’s original 2015 allocation based on Florida law will be the allocation for the next decade. Mayor Hayward has three days to muster public opinion in the city’s favor to get the higher allocation.

The BCC has scheduled a special meeting for 9 a.m. on Thursday, July 14 to discuss the city’s proposed interlocal agreement and the new county jail. Mayor Hayward and his staff are presenting the same allocation formula that he did in September 2015. Read City_Gas_Tax_Bond

Commissioner Doug Underhill will be my guest on “Pensacola Speaks” to discuss the issue today at 5:30 p.m.