CHAMPAIGN — In what seems likely to be a narrow decision, city council members tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 6) are scheduled to take a final vote on a 4-cent-per-gallon gas tax, a measure they have already given the minimum number of votes informally.
The council will meet for its biweekly voting session tonight at 7 in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.
Representatives discussed the new tax in November, and at the end of the debate, a non-binding 5-4 straw poll sent the bill on to tonight's meeting for a formal vote.
The majority of council members agreed that the tax is necessary to help pay for the maintenance of the city's aging roads. Officials estimate that a 4-cent tax on every gallon of gasoline sold in Champaign would generate $1.5 million annually.
That would help city workers start to catch up on a $60 million backlog of unfunded road projects.
Dissenting council members worried about the costs to consumers and businesses. Council member Karen Foster, for example, said the extra pennies on local products begin to add up.
The proposed tax is higher than a surcharge the Urbana City Council approved last year. When the Urbana gas tax went into effect in October 2010, it stood at two cents per gallon. That ordinance included a 0.4-cent increase every year for three years — it stands at 2.4 cents now and will eventually top off at 3.2 cents per gallon.
But Champaign administrators have said the Urbana tax has not created a difference in gas prices between the two cities, and they do not expect a Champaign tax to create a noticeable difference, either.
If council members repeat their preliminary approval tonight, the tax could be in place within a few months.