Monday, July 27, 2009

Local Road Funding Relief May Be On The Way

Last summer as I went door to door visiting with District 31 constituents, I tried to put a special emphasis on making contact with those who were new to the area. I wanted to be sure to welcome them to the district and give them the opportunity to update their voter registrations to reflect their new residence.

And in the past year, more than 3300 district residents have filed new local voter registrations as the area continues to grow and expand.

In talking to these new residents, one of the issues that becomes very apparent is their desire for quality county roads and their dismay at the fact that even though they are paying so much in property taxes each year, none of that money seems to be used to improve their roads. I have always explained to them that that even though their property taxes continue to grow year after year, this money does not get sent to the roads fund and cannot be used to pave roads. It is clear to me that they feel this is wrong. They believe that at least a portion of the massive new amounts of money that are pouring into the local school and county governments should be used for roads.
Last summer, after yet another round of these discussion with the residents of my district, I communicated these concerns to Logan County Commissioner Mark Sharpton and he launched an effort to put a policy in place that would return half of all new property tax revenues going to county government to the roads fund. Unfortunately, at that time, the County Commission did not support Sharpton's effort and we have had to go another year without property tax monies being used for roads. However, the Commission recently revisited the proposal and it was approved unanimously and now simply awaits confirmation by the County Excise Board at which point in time the policy should go into effect.

Because most property tax revenue is placed in the school system and this new policy will not affect those funds, the initial amount of new growth money gong to roads will not be substantial, however, if this policy is continued over time, the compounded revenues should result in a very significant amount of road funding in just a few years if the county continues to grow. This means that future new residents of Logan County may not notice the drop in road quality when they cross the county line.

This is an important common-sense reform and all three Logan County Commissioners should be acknowledged for their commitment to the concept.

I would certainly hope that the area school systems would also look at this type of a program to avoid future debt efforts. A large amount of new growth money is now flowing into the area school districts whose territory includes this growth. If, instead of spending the new growth money, the school systems would budget a portion of it for capital needs, it may be possible for the districts to meet the infrastructure demands of this growth with reserve funds instead of having to ask for new bond issuances. This form of wise financial management would result in the avoidance of unnecessary banking fees and debt interests and it would keep property taxes lower.

I very much appreciate the feedback and insight of the people in bringing attention to this issue. Please continue to provide me with your ideas for reform.

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