Figuring out the road bill
December 20, 2012
I’m heartened to see Tom Starrett and the county manager continuing the discussion in The R-C of how to fund road maintenance in Douglas County. I suspect most Douglas County residents agree with us that something needs to be done. As usual the issue boils down to money and where to get it.
The county manager has put the problem into perspective. We have a $17 million backlog of needed repairs and need $3.5-$4 million dollars per year over the long term just to maintain our roads as they are.
I’ve suggested that we could enact the full 9-cent local gas tax allowed by state law and as already done in most other Nevada counties. Tom Starrett makes the case for finding the money from existing sources rather than additional taxes. Those are the two fundamental alternatives.
County commissioners who earlier opposed raising the gas tax apparently agree with Mr. Starrett and said they’d find the money elsewhere. We’ve heard little since.
The third option would be some combination of the two, funding with the gas tax repairs and maintenance that can’t be funded from existing sources.
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The first step in any project like this is to agree on the problem and the need to solve it. I hope we’re beyond that point and can now focus on selecting from the available alternatives.
Those who oppose increasing the gas tax need to identify specific budget line items they’d cut to get the funds needed for road repairs and the programs that would suffer as a consequence. And then build support for those cuts so they can actually be made and the money diverted to our roads.
That discussion should include our gasoline retailers who are now effectively pocketing money that in nearby counties goes for road repairs. They went to considerable lengths to oppose a gas tax increase. Consultants, detailed analyses, projections of economic catastrophe, etc. Surely they can make the same effort to identify what should be cut instead to pay for road repairs and to convince those who would be affected by those cuts to support them.
We’ve put this off for far too long. Deteriorating roads leave the impression of a community in decline, unable or unwilling to deal with its most basic obligations to its citizens. Douglas County can and should do better. I hope it will.