PENSACOLA, Fla. (WALA) - The future of public transit funding in Escambia County looks to now be on commuters.
The Escambia County Board of Commissioners held a public meeting Monday, November 19 to get public input on the possibility of a four-cent local option fuel tax to pay for the Escambia County Area Transit System.
They voted four to one enforce the controversial four cent tax on each gallon of gasoline.
But the vote wasn't made without input from the dozens who showed up to have their voices heard
Michael Lowery, an ECAT bus operator, said the tax would help expand the ECAT's services for those who need them.
"We could provide more frequent service and maybe more night service and weekend service. It'll help guys at the Navy base and those trying to get to their jobs," said Lowery.
Lowery said he believes the tax will benefit the economy.
"We try to bring in companies like Airbus into this community. European countries look at this and say, ‘Where's the mass transit?' This is the opportunity to take this community to another level," Lowery said.
Others believe the tax could severely hurt the county's economy by influencing people to purchase cheaper gas in other places.
Stephanie Schwartz said the increase would also affect many like her, students who also work full time jobs.
"I'm not opposed to the bus system at all. It's a vital part of the community, and it's needed. However, if we have it, and prices are going up, the price should be put in the fare, not put on those that don't even use it," said Schwartz.
Schwartz said the company she works for plans to leave the county to buy their gas once the tax is enacted.
"Gas has gone up so much over the last four years as it is, and as a driver, I take that impact. I fill up, and I feel the cost. Adding a four cent tax hike on top of that would be ridiculous, especially for something I don't even use," Schwartz said.
There were questions raised at the meeting on whether additional funds at all would be directed away from ECAT but County Commissioners said every cent will go toward public transit.
The ECAT is currently being funded through Escambia County's general fund. The four-cent gas tax will go into effect in 2014.
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