County tackles road funding
The county needs to shift funding for road maintenance into high gear over the next five years or face bad roads and a $86.3 million maintenance backlog by 2022.
In a report to Douglas County commissioners, Public Works Director Carl Ruschmeyer asked that the county shift as much general fund money as possible into road maintenance as quickly as possible.
Commissioners will discuss funding the five-year transportation plan at their regular meeting on Thursday.
Ruschmeyer is asking commissioners to engage the public to develop long and short-term funding options and to look for new revenue sources. The three-year goal included in the proposal is to increase spending on roads to $4.5 million a year, which county engineers say is the minimum to maintain county roads at their current level. The five-year goal is to raise $7.6 million a year, which would fully fund the transportation plan.
Transportation officials are seeking final approval of the five-year transportation plan on Thursday, which includes an estimated $2.497 million a year in work and $903,000 a year for the regional transportation commission. The plan was approved by commissioners sitting as the Regional Transportation Commission on March 21.
“Road quality will continue to deteriorate at an accelerated rate, resulting in increased future costs, reduced level of service and increased customer complaints,” Ruschmeyer said in his report.
He identified four sources of new revenue for road maintenance. Critical to raising enough money to fund even the three-year plan would be voter approval of a half-cent sales tax that is estimated to raise $2.6 million a year. County commissioners could approve a quarter-cent sales tax increase without going to voters. That would raise $1.3 million per year. Between the two and the $400,000 already devoted to road maintenance, that would just about cover the minimum funding, according to engineers.
The county could also raise $800,000 a year by increasing the utility operator fee by a percent. An attempt to raise the gas tax a nickel sputtered in 2011 after commissioners failed to approve the second reading on the ordinance. Gas station owners opposed raising the tax, which could raise $900,000, if the county were to implement it.
Douglas County spends $1,948 per mile to maintain 231 miles of road. Minden spends $34,482 per mile to maintain 14.5 miles of road. That’s low compared to the Round Hill General Improvement District which spends $56,818 a mile to maintain 4.4 miles of road.
County commissioners meet 1 p.m. Thursday at the Douglas County Administration Building, 1616 Eighth St., Minden.