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Commissioners consider motor-vehicle registration price increase

The Centre County Board of Commissioners — from left, Mark Higgins, Michael Pipe and Steve Dershem — are considering a $5 increase in motor-vehicle registration prices.
The Centre County Board of Commissioners — from left, Mark Higgins, Michael Pipe and Steve Dershem — are considering a $5 increase in motor-vehicle registration prices. Centre Daily Times, file

The Centre County Board of Commissioners announced Tuesday it is considering a $5 increase in motor-vehicle registration prices.

As part of the ACT 89 transportation bill signed by former Gov. Tom Corbett in 2013, counties have had the option of enacting an ordinance that raises the registration fees by $5. Since then, 14 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties have done so.

The bill eliminated the 12 cent per gallon state retail fuel tax, but increased the tax amount that can be collected on wholesale fuels. The legislation is expected to raise up to $2.4 billion over five years that will be used for statewide transportation infrastructure.

“ACT 89 was a great piece of legislation, but we’re not guaranteed that the taxes we’re paying through the gas pump are staying here in Centre County,” board Chairman Michael Pipe said. “I think drivers are more likely to support paying the $5 fee if they see it being used in their communities.”

The increase, which could take effect by summer, would affect owners of passenger automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, buses, limousines, motor-homes, trailers and semi-trailers.

Commonwealth, municipal government, Penn State, mass-transit and emergency vehicles are exempt from the price increase. Disabled veterans, prisoners of war and medal of honor recipients will also be exempt from the increase.

There are more than 117,000 non-exempt vehicles registered in Centre County and if the $5 raise is applied, almost $600,000 for infrastructure projects would be generated, Pipe said. The county receives about $187,000 per year in liquid fuel allocations from the state so combined the county expects to have almost $800,000 to use for infrastructure projects.

In December, the county allocated the $187,000 in liquid fuel funds to six of the county’s 35 municipalities for six projects. If the registration fee increase is approved, 26 municipalities will receive funds for 28 projects, Pipe said.

Commissioner Steve Dershem said he understands the county’s need for infrastructure repair and construction projects, but he is hesitant to approve the increase.

“My only concern is on January 1st, we’ve got another 8 cent oil franchise fee added to our gas tax,” Dershem said. “When is enough, enough?”

The commissioners unanimously agreed to pen a letter to the councils of all 35 municipalities in the county as well as schedule a public forum to begin a dialogue with citizens and stakeholders.

“We would have to do our due diligence to make sure that if we would do this investment, that it would be smart and it would be focused,” Pipe said. “It’s an investment in the community and if we can be mindful and deliberate about educating the public about how we’re using this, I think they will be more receptive to it.”

An update, including a potential public forum schedule, is expected in the next few weeks.

Leon Valsechi: 814-231-4631, @leon_valsechi

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