Editor's notes

The Bryan County stories that didn’t get in the newspaper.

 
Posted February 5, 2015 02:54 pm

Could low gas prices become a curse?

It’s nice to be able to fill your gas tank for about half, or less, of what it cost a couple of years ago. Even with a vehicle with a small tank and reasonably good mileage many people are saving $100 or more per month.

But the savings today could very well cost us down the road.

The drop in gasoline prices to what we see today from the $3.50 to $3.75 per gallon where prices hovered a couple of years ago is certainly putting money in our pockets individually but at the same time it is taking a bite out of the various local option sales tax revenues the Bryan County BOE, the governments of Pembroke, Richmond Hill and Bryan County are collecting at the rate of about 5 cents per gallon.

That doesn’t sound like a lot but when you calculate the thousands of gallons of gasoline purchased in the county each day, it adds up quickly.

In Bryan County alone, about $5 million each year or 50 percent of the revenue from various forms of local option sales taxes — SPLOST, ESPLOST and LOST— comes from the sale of gasoline, according to Jimmy Burnsed, chairman of the Bryan County Commission.

Local option sales taxes are used not for the operation of governmental agencies but to make capital purchases. Items like police, fire and other emergency vehicles; public works projects, water and sewer funding, road projects and others are typically paid for with local option sales tax dollars.

While no projects have had to be postponed or abandoned yet, Burnsed said the reduced revenue is “beginning to have an impact. And at some point it could make a big difference.”

ESPLOST funds are key components in the construction of the two new schools currently being built at a cost of more than $36 million in the county.

For some time the citizens of Bryan County have been fortunate. A large portion of the gasoline purchases that supply much of the tax revenue to build schools and fire stations, purchase ambulances and pave roads are made by people traveling through the Bryan County on either Interstates 95 or 16 and not by local citizens.

 

As nice as the low gasoline prices are today, it won’t be long until local residents could very well face tough decisions to make up the decreased tax revenue ourselves or do without some things we now expect.