The Transportation Trust Fund is facing a major revenue shortfall. Read on to learn why this is a challenge we must address.
What is the Transportation Trust Fund?
Pinellas County’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) is a special revenue fund that pays for maintenance and operation of important infrastructure that we use every day, such as roads, sidewalks and bridges. It pays to repair potholes, replace sidewalk panels, maintain bridges, mow and trim plants and trees, sweep streets, and replace traffic signals. It also funds the Advanced Transportation Management System (ATMS) and Intelligent Transportation System (ITS). These systems use technology to reduce drive times and make our roads safer. The State of Florida requires the County to have this fund (Florida Statute 336.022).
Where does the money come from?
Most of the money for the Transportation Trust Fund comes from:
- State fuel taxes set by the State Legislature and shared with the County (3 cents per gallon).
- Local fuel taxes set by the Board of County Commissioners (7 cents per gallon).
The breakdown of the Fuel Tax can be found on the Fuel Tax Breakdown page or through the navigation panel on the left.
The state allows each county to collect a Local Option Fuel Tax (LOFT) of up to 12 cents per gallon. Today, Pinellas County collects seven cents. The first six cents are shared with the cities in a 60%/40% split. The additional cent is dedicated to the countywide Advanced Transportation Management System and Intelligent Transportation System because they benefit all residents.
Why is the transportation fund running out of money?
Three key things are causing the fund to run out of money:
- Revenue is tied to the amount of fuel sold rather than the price.
- Cars need less gas. As the miles per gallon for vehicles goes up, the amount of fuel people buy goes down.
- Costs to build and maintain transportation infrastructure have gone up.
For years, the fund has had to spend more than it earned. That happened even more so during COVID-19, because most people drove less and purchased less fuel. By the end of September 2022, it will have a $3.3 million deficit. If no corrective action is taken, the deficit would grow to $10 million per year beginning in FY23.
Can we reduce expenses?
To balance the fund by cutting costs, we would have to discontinue $10 million dollars' worth of maintenance and improvements every year. Our roads, sidewalks and bridges would get worse. The longer maintenance or improvements are delayed, the more it will cost to fix.
Fixing the problem
There are only two viable options to fix the problem:
- Increase the local option fuel tax
- Use money from the General Fund, which comes largely from property taxes
The most viable option under consideration is a 5-cent increase in the LOFT that would cost the average Pinellas County driver about $27 annually, based on average miles driven (13,500) and fuel mileage (24.9 miles per gallon). If implemented, Pinellas County would join 36 Florida counties that collect more than seven cents in LOFT. Neighboring Pasco, Manatee and Sarasota counties are among those that collect the full 12 cents.
Increasing the LOFT wouldn’t solve the problem alone, because state law restricts how the additional revenue could be spent, but it’s a critical part of the solution. The additional LOFT, coupled with other one-time expenses the County could pay, would put the fund in a positive position through at least 2027.
A fuel tax is the fairest approach because it would be shared by all users of our transportation system, including visitors and those passing through. Addressing the TTF funding gap through the General Fund would pass the burden to Pinellas County property owners.
Frequently Askey Questions about the Tranportation Trust Fund and Fuel Tax can be found on the TTF FAQ page or through the navigation panel on the left.