LIMA — An increase in license permit fees may be coming soon to Allen County residents in order to inject more funds into fixing the county’s roads and bridges.
The Allen County Commissioners have taken the first steps necessary to place up to a $10 increase in license fees with the goal of adding an extra $740,000 annually to the Allen County Engineer’s roads budget. Commissioners are looking to have the necessary legal framework in place so the extra fees can be collected starting January 2019.
Before commissioners can pass the resolution, however, two extended public hearings must be held to hear public comment on the increases. The hearings are scheduled for 6 p.m. June 25 and 1 p.m. June 28. Both will be held at the Allen County Engineer’s Office.
Road and bridge improvements are typically funded by the state’s gas tax, but due to the state dividing up the funds gathered evenly between the 88 counties in Ohio, many high-density counties and cities — Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland — come out with shortfalls in road maintenance budgets. These shortfalls are often made up through higher license permit fees added in $5 increments.
The commissioners are proposing two $5 increases. The first, which applies to all county residents, sends 100% of the fees collected to the county’s road budget. The second, which would apply to only county residents outside of Lima and Spencerville, would fund road improvements done by townships and villages.
Lima and Spencerville already collect the second additional $5 license permit fee, which is spent on city infrastructure improvements.
Although permit fee increases tend to be common throughout the state, Allen County hasn’t increased its countywide license permit fee rate since 1968.
By statute, the taxes collected can only be used for infrastructure improvements. Allen County Engineer Brion Rhodes said the majority would be spent on roads with a fraction heading toward bridges. No funds could be spent on salary, equipment purchases or building construction.
The commissioners’ proposal comes less than a month after the failure of their proposed sales tax increase, which was to add $500,000 to the engineer’s budget to deal with roads and bridges. In talks with the county engineer before the sales tax vote, Rhodes had requested an additional $1 million per year. So even if the commissioners approve the increase in license permit fees, the county would still be dealing with a roughly $250,000 shortfall compared to what’s needed, Rhodes said.
“Our roads and bridges are in bad shape and the general public knows that,” Rhodes said. “And our general public wants better roads and bridges.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.