Council looks to cut gas tax Temporarily

Kaua’i County Council members want to give a break to Kaua’i residents at the gas pumps.

For a little while, anyway.

At a time when residents have been hit by fluctuating and high gas prices, council members want to reduce the county portion of fuel taxes from 13 cents per gallon to 6 percent a gallon, from Jan. 1, 2006 to June 30, 2006.

From July 1, 2006, the tax per gallon would go back up to 13 cents. In addition to the county tax, state and federal taxes are assessed for each gallon of gas purchased at the pump.

Combined federal, state and county taxes are now 61 cents a gallon.

Approval of the reduction will help motorists a bit, but will cut into the ability of county leaders to generate funds for the repaving of county roads, installation of guardrails and maintenance of operational aspects of the Kaua’i County Department of Public Works, which is the largest of county departments, according to county sources.

Delays in repaving of roads and the installation of guardrails, for instance, could result in accidents, and could create liability concerns for the county.

Council members are scheduled to hold a public hearing on a bill and a resolution on the matter of temporarily reducing the county gas tax on Thursday, Nov. 3, at 2 p.m. at the historic County Building on Rice Street in Lihu’e.

All members of the council, with exception of Council-woman JoAnn Yukimura, voted at an Oct. 6 meeting to have both matters (the ordinance and resolution) approved on first reading, and to give residents a chance to make comments on both measures during the public hearing.

If the bill is approved by members of the council and signed into law by Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste, an estimated $1.2 million or so less in funds would be put in the county’s highway fund.

The highway fund falls under the jurisdiction of the county DPW.

Department leaders have also been hit by the higher cost of buying gasoline for their vehicles, equipment, and operations, and the loss of $1.2 million in fuel-tax revenues will be felt, said a department official who is known to The Garden Island but who asked not to be identified.

The change in the amount of funds going into the highway fund will require amending this year’s $122-million county operating budget to reflect the revenue loss.

In one way, the loss of those funds could be made up with the transfer of county un-appropriated surplus funds, but such a move would require action by the council, a county representative said.

The un-appropriated-surplus funds are those that have not been used by leaders of county departments in one fiscal year, and have lapsed into the un-appropriated-surplus category of money.


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