Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Payments or potholes

    The only thing temporary about a “temporary road levy” that voters will face on the May ballot is the temporary boost it will give to the ailing Blaine County roads budget that’s suffering from declining state and federal infusions.
    The requested levy of $10.5 million, or $5.5 million per year, would cost taxpayers approximately $64.87 per $100,000 of property value. It would cover long-neglected road and bridge improvements for about two years. The road and bridge budget currently runs around $1.6 million a year.
    The levy would not be a permanent solution for the county’s road budget which, by resolution of the county, does not receive any property tax revenues. To keep adequate levels of funding available for roads and bridges, the county would have to return to voters every two years to ask for another “temporary levy,” unless by some political miracle Idaho legislators increase the tax on fuel for vehicles.
    County officials have been forthright about this in public meetings. They point to Teton County, where voters will consider that county’s third such levy in May.
    Blaine County officials are banking on the idea that residents in the county and the cities, which will also receive proceeds from the levy, will be so pleased with the road repairs and construction to be funded by the levy that they would be inclined to approve the levy again and again.
    Blaine County’s Transportation Plan shows that it’s one of just 10 jurisdictions of a total of 271 counties, cities and highway districts in Idaho that do not use much local funding in road and bridge budgets. In 2011, it spent just $13,900 in local funds.
    The unhappy choice for voters is payments or potholes, neither of which will ever be temporary.

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