Citing a decrease in state funding, Franklin County Engineer Cornell Robertson wants residents to pay $5 more per year on vehicle registrations to help pay for paving roads and maintaining infrastructure.
Robertson has scheduled four public presentations on the proposed fee increase:
* April 2 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at 444 Fisher Road
* April 4 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at 4801 Hendron Road
* April 10 and April 17 at 9 a.m. at Franklin County commissioners' meetings on the 26th floor at the Franklin County Courthouse, 373 S. High St.
"It's good to have efficient, small government," he said, "but even efficient, small government has to have revenue."
If county commissioners adopt the additional $5 fee, it will generate $5.6 million a year for the engineer's office. The extra $5 would raise the fee to renew a passenger-car registration to $58 or $63 for one year, depending on where in the county someone lives.
Currently, the state's car-registration renewal fee is $34.50; the deputy registrar gets $3.50 of that. So-called permissive local taxes vary from $15 to $20, depending on the municipality or township where the vehicle owner lives, according to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles website.
Columbus residents pay $20, so the current fee for renewing a car license is $58 for city residents. The extra $5 county fee would raise that to $63.
Costs are higher for vehicle-registration renewals for pickup trucks, RVs and other vehicles, some based on weight.
The money is particularly needed now, Robertson said, because his office, which received $16 million from the Ohio Public Works Commission in 2012, will receive only $1 million this year.
Also, Robertson said, although no Franklin County 357 bridges are in danger of failure and the vast majority are in good or better condition, 47 are in fair or poor condition and might need work to extend their use.
"It's better to maintain as we go than replace later," he said.
The Main Street bridge over the Scioto River cost $70 million, Robertson said.
His request also comes, he said, as his office is spending more on snow and ice removal and on stone and concrete, which have almost doubled in price since 2013.
"Revenue is decreasing. Costs are increasing," he said.
Already, Ohio's motor-vehicle license tax provides $25 million of the engineer's $42 million annual budget. Ohio lawmakers authorized a vehicle-registration fee increase in 2017 for counties that want to implement it. Thus far, five counties -- Cuyahoga, Geauga, Hamilton, Montgomery and Summit -- have done so.
"We're maxed out," Robertson said. The proposed $5 fee increase "is substantial, but it doesn't solve the (funding) problem. We also need to look at other sources of revenue."
If commissioners approve it, the additional fee will take effect at the beginning of next year.
Commissioners John O'Grady and Kevin Boyce said March 22 they needed more information about the proposal. Commissioner Marilyn Brown said she supports it.
"It's good to have efficient, small government, but even efficient, small government has to have revenue."
-- CORNELL ROBERTSON
Franklin County engineer