Time to support a county gas tax increase

Nye County commissioners took a big step forward Tuesday in raising the county gas tax for the first time since 1985.

That is the same amount for the past 30 years as the county’s roads have expanded and cars have become more efficient, resulting in fewer trips to the pump by consumers.

Commissioner Dan Schinhofen would like to see the tax raised 5 cents, the highest that can be implemented without a vote of the residents, to 9 cents per gallon. The commissioners voted to bring back an ordinance, I hope sooner than later, that will implement the increase.

Commissioner Donna Cox said she could support a 3-cent increase, but 5 cents might be too much.

I believe the full 5 cents is needed, and I encourage the commissioners to go that direction.

The county maintains 2,747 miles of roads, including bridges. The county also pays to maintain signage, traffic signals, plowing roads in winter and repair flood damage every summer.

At 4 cents, the projected gas tax revenue is $838,000. That is from a projected 21.5 million gallons sold. Bumping it 3 cents, like Cox suggested, would generate an additional $645,000, or $1.5 million. But the full 5-cent increase would put an additional $1.1 million in the road fund coffers, projecting revenue at $1.9 million annually.

Another argument for the increase in preventive maintenance: for every $1 not spent maintaining a road, $4 will have to be spent to repair the road, according to the county.

While an increase will impact the wallets of county residents, a good portion of the increase will be realized off U.S. Highway 95 at gas stations in Amargosa Valley, Beatty and Tonopah on north through the county. According to figures released by the county, 37.9 percent of all gallons sold in Nye County are along the U.S. 95 corridor. Add in the number of gallons sold to visitors in Pahrump along Highway 160, and nonresidents would carry a big load of the increase.

The 9-cent gas tax would also put Nye in line with 12 other counties, including our neighbor Clark.

Here in Pahrump, we’ve done better with gas prices than our neighbors in the county to the north, or in neighboring Clark. The lowest gas price in town is $2.61 per gallon for cash. Last night I filled up for $2.64 per gallon. Whenever my gas tank gets low, I always fill up in Pahrump before heading back over the hump where the price at that first gas station near the Blue Diamond interchange is at least 40 cents more.

The county’s road infrastructure is crumbling. An increase for the full 5 cents is what is truly needed.

Arnold M. Knightly is the editor of the Pahrump Valley Times