URBANA — Council members Monday night narrowly supported Mayor Laurel Prussing's plan to raise the city's gas tax ahead of schedule to match the change at the pumps in Champaign.
Urbana's gas tax stands at 2.4 cents per gallon now. It's scheduled to rise to 2.8 cents in July, but Prussing has proposed to raise the tax to 4 cents to match the rate that became effective in Champaign this month.
In a preliminary vote, council members supported her plan 4-3. They are scheduled to take a final vote at their next meeting.
"I don't think there's going to be any price difference if we raise ours to 4 cents, and we certainly do need the revenue," Prussing said.
Budgeters are expecting that the gas tax at the current 2.4-cent rate will bring in $442,000 by the time the fiscal year closes at the end of June. They estimate it could bring in just more than $736,000 at the 4-cent rate.
"We have no shortage of roads that need a lot of attention," Prussing said.
Diane Marlin, D-Ward 7, voted against the rate hike. She said the city should stick to the schedule it approved in 2010, which would raise the tax to 2.8 cents in July and then add a final increase to 3.2 cents in 2013.
"We have raised a number of taxes and fees, and they do add up," Marlin said. "From my perspective, I've done enough."
Heather Stevenson, R-Ward 6, and Dennis Roberts, D-Ward 5, also opposed the fee. Roberts called it a "difficult vote."
"We have increased the revenue of the city in many ways, and we have brought a huge savings to the city in the aggregation of electricity," he said.
Brandon Bowersox, one of the four who voted to move forward with the tax hike, said the people he has talked to are willing to pay the tax if it means their roads will be fixed.
"Our streets are just crumbling if you drive anywhere in Urbana," Bowersox said. "Our streets are in the worst disrepair that I can remember."