Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Secondary road funds down $417K

J-E Editor
Webster County Fiscal Court is feeling the crunch of the recent reduction in the state gasoline usage tax.

On Monday magistrates met with Jason Ward with the state’s Rural Secondary Program, which controls maintenance on some of the lesser used state roads within the county. That program alone saw a loss of around $417,000, or roughly 40 percent from what they had expected based on last year’s numbers.

“Rural Secondary is funded through the motor fuel tax, which is based on the wholesale cost of fuels in Kentucky,” Ward explained to the court. “The idea was that as fuel prices went up, people would use less gas. As prices went down they would use more. But people have become so dependant on their vehicles that it didn’t work out that way.”

When gasoline prices took an unexpected drop last fall and winter, the fuel tax dropped as well. But the way the law was originally set up, the tax could only increase incrementally, while there was no floor on how far it could fall.
State legislators have since set a floor for the drop, but they are still limited on how much the tax can go up.
“If gas went back up to $3.50 to $4.00 a gallon like we were a year ago, it would take nearly ten years to get the fuel tax back to where it was in 2014,” Ward explained.
Funding for the Rural Secondary program were originally estimated at $997,922. By the time the decrease in taxes was figured in, that amount had dropped to just $580,000.
According to Ward, that does not leave enough money to complete the two projects Rural Secondary had planned to carry out in Webster County in the 2016 Fiscal Year, which runs from July 1, 2015 to June 31, 2016.
Those projects include replacing a deteriorating bridge on Highway 283, paving a two mile stretch of Highway 283 and then repairing and resurfacing a 2.533 miles stretch of Highway 270.
Ward and the county agreed that the Highway 283 project was the most pressing matter. The bridge in question is in such bad shape that it has been restricted to a 10 ton weight capacity, which means that school buses and farm equipment is not legally allowed to cross the bridge.

While the school district has rerouted buses, there is still a lot of concern over farmers crossing the bridge, which was built 75 to 100 years ago.

“When they cross the bridge, they are doing it at their own risk,” said Ward.
“We really need to get that bridge done before falls because those farm trucks are going to roll,” said Judge Executive Jim Townsend.

Ward said there was really no way the bridge could be repaired until at least late fall or early next spring.

Magistrates voted to proceed with the Highway 283 project, but asked Ward that Rural Secondary try to stretch the money to complete at least part of the Highway 270 project.
One option Ward offered was ‘Preventative Maintenance’, which is a rather new concept in Kentucky. It involved treating roads with an ‘Armor Coat’, a chip and seal type treatment which could extend the life of a roadway by as much as 10 years.

“That hasn’t been done in Webster County in twenty years,” he told the court.

Once that treatment sets up for 48 hours, a second Fog Sealant treatment would be applied.
The closest roads in the state to have received the treatment are Highways 669 and 760 near Waverly.

At Monday’s meeting the court also issued an order proclaiming April as Child Abuse Prevention month in Webster County. Family Court Judge Brandi Rogers and her staff were on hand.

In other business, the county government will soon be taking a big look at the cost of insurance. Currently a single person insurance plan costs the county employee $100. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) the county must reduce that amount to $92.

Currently the county pays $640 per employee for insurance coverage. With the reduced premium and rising healthcare cost, the county is expecting to pay $720 per person in the upcoming fiscal year.

“We are over budget on a lot of things,” said county treasurer Paul Guinn. We re going to have to do a lot of budget cutting.”

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