The Will County Board Public Works and Transportation Committee heard information Thursday on the prospect of adding a 4-cent to 8-cent gas tax of its own for motorists across the county.
When the state passed the capital bill, it allowed Will County to institute a countywide gas tax. Other collar counties were already able to do so. A countywide gas tax could generate anywhere from $12 million to $24 million in annual revenue, said Jeff Ronaldson, the county’s director of transportation.
A document Ronaldson presented to committee members described the potential return on investment of a local gas tax as “substantial” when compared with how Will County benefits from the recently doubled state gas tax. If a county gas tax is approved, the revenue could go toward improvement projects for county roads and state roads where they intersect with the county system. Like the state gas tax increase, it would be indexed to inflation.
Will County Board member Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, was skeptical of the prospect of imposing another tax on Will County residents.
“How much are we going to tax people?” Fricilone said.
He said he would like to see an advisory referendum for residents to vote on, even though it would not be binding on the County Board.
“We didn’t really ask them on the state [tax],” he said. “And we’ve heard a lot of negatives from people saying, ‘Hey the gas is up.’ Now we’re going to put that on top without even asking them? I’m not in favor of that.”
Ronaldson did add that there were some risks involved. For example, the long-term viability of a gas tax could be affected by the expected increase in hybrid and electric vehicles on the road in the next several years.
The board will likely discuss this and other issues related to state legislation at a meeting at 10:15 a.m. Thursday.
Ronaldson also discussed the benefits Will County could see with the state gas tax increase. The 19-cent increase is expected to generate a 68% increase in annual revenue for the county, contingent on actual gas sales throughout the year.
He said the projected increase in revenue has sped up the schedule for major local road improvements. The start of the Gougar Road improvement project, between Laraway and Francis roads, was pushed up from 2022 to this year, and improvements to 80th Avenue, from 191st Street to 183rd Street, were pushed up from 2024 to 2021.
“It seems to me that we’re only getting a minute percent of that gas tax,” said board member Joe VanDuyne, D-Wilmington, who is chairman of the committee. “But it does help.”