Ohio’s proposed gas tax increase could affect Hamilton levy plans

If Ohio’s gasoline tax increases, Hamilton’s citizen-led committee that is advocating for a street-repair levy will seek a smaller city tax than was announced earlier, the committee’s chairman said.

“We had a meeting Thursday, and we’re considering the possibility of adjusting the size of the levy amount, depending on what the state does — and the state may do nothing,” Jack Whalen told the Journal-News.

The levy committee is targeting a levy on the March 2020 ballot. Previously, the city announced plans for a 4.9-mill levy, which would generate about $3.7 million per year. That amount would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $175 per year.

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Gov. Mike DeWine requested a 18-cent-per-gallon increase that would start July and would be tied to inflation. But the Ohio House of Representatives last week lowered that amount to 10.7 cents per gallon of gas and 20 cents more per gallon of diesel fuel.

Hamilton now receives $1.9 million from the gas tax, but under DeWine’s proposed increase, the city by 2024 would receive nearly $3.6 million. But under the house version, the city would receive significantly less.

“We’re slowing things down until we see what the state does, and then we’ll adjust what we have to do,” Whalen said. “We don’t know what the amount would be.”

Whatever the state does, however, “the need is still there” for a street-repair levy, Whalen said. The committee decided to wait until early 2020 to seek the levy because a lot more voter education is needed. Also, officials have promised to give neighborhoods input on which streets in their areas should be paved, and they are working out a plan to implement that.

ExploreFROM JANUARY: Hamilton council decides to pull street levy from May ballot

“Our mission is hopefully people can make an informed decision, and find out what it means to them,” Whalen said previously.

City officials have said 70 percent of Hamilton’s streets are in fair to poor condition, with half categorized as poor. The city has about 250 miles of streets. But when the number of lanes are considered, there are 550 miles of lanes on those streets. Some of the streets have not been repaved in 40 years.

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The committee has been holding public meetings, and plans to continue doing so through the year, to answer questions residents have about the proposed levy.

The group posts answers to common questions on its website, www.criticalforhamilton.com, and its Facebook page, Fix Our Streets-Hamilton.

Staff Writer Eric Schwartzberg contributed reporting.

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