DuPage plans gas tax increase to offset pandemic-induced losses
DuPage County is planning to double a 4-cents-per-gallon gas tax to make up for revenue losses driven by the coronavirus pandemic.
Transportation planners have proposed increasing the countywide tax to 8 cents a gallon to raise $16 million more a year for an aging system of roads and bridges.
The county's transportation budget took a pandemic-induced hit as demand for gasoline fell while commuters worked from home and people avoided traveling. With sales down at the pump, the county's gas tax proceeds have fallen nearly 25% since April, outpacing a projected 20% reduction.
County officials expect the trend to continue and telework to become the new normal.
"The COVID impact is going to be felt long-term in addition to increased fuel efficiencies and electrification and all the other things that continue to erode our motor fuel taxes," said Christopher Snyder, director of transportation.
A county board committee on Tuesday unanimously recommended approval of the gas tax increase to help offset the losses and provide additional funding for capital improvements.
The full county board is expected to make a final decision next week.
"What it means in terms of 20 years: $350 million more in capital investment," Snyder said.
If approved, the 8-cents-a-gallon tax would not take effect until July 1.
The county hasn't raised the tax since a 1989 state law was enacted to allow DuPage and two other counties in Illinois to impose a local motor fuel tax.
State lawmakers last year gave DuPage the ability to double its gas tax, but officials didn't pursue it until the pandemic disruptions.
As the county began preparing a new budget, the department deferred major equipment purchases and for the first time set aside state motor fuel tax money to pay for some eligible commodities, specifically road salt, Snyder said. Normally, the county buys four snow plows every year.
"Annually, we spend $1 million to $2 million on equipment in general," Snyder recently told the board's finance committee. "This year, we reduced that to just two snow plows."
Additional gas tax revenue, Snyder said, would provide reliable funding for core maintenance and reduce the county's reliance on state and federal grants for some projects.
"I know it's a tough time to do it, but this is basically the future of our transportation program right here on our roads for the next five years at least," county board member Jim Zay said.
Most of the county's 50 bridges are 21 to 30 years old. Many roadways also are almost exceeding their useful life, Snyder said.
The county, he said, has targeted increased investment in maintaining infrastructure. "But at the same time, we still haven't kept pace," he said.