September 29th Vote Critical to Highway and Bridge Fund

Monday, September 14, 2015

The following
explanation of the information
available to the Grant County
Commission members was prepared
by Karen Layher, Grant County auditor.

Grant County has 272 miles of
gravel roads and approximately 168
miles of asphalt roads to maintain.
We are the third largest county in
the state based on the number of
bridges. We have 169 bridges over
20 feet in length and another 59
structures that are less than 20 feet
in length that are legally classified as
culverts. The county is responsible
for the replacement of all bridges
and all culverts over 16 sq. ft. in size.
If these are on a township road the
township pays the first $500 and the
county is responsible for the remainder
of the cost.
The county implemented a $2 per
wheel tax in 1994 to go toward local
roads and bridges. In 1998, this was
raised to $4 per wheel. In 2014, the
revenue generated from the wheel
tax was $190,583.
The federal government had two
programs that provided funding to
assist counties with asphalt and
bridge projects. One of those programs
was the Surface Transportation
Program (STP) that provided
dollars for road work which the
county used primarily for asphalt
overlays on federal aid routes. The
STP annual allocation from the federal
program, which is currently
$177,000 for Grant County accumulated
in a state-held account. When
the county had accumulated enough
funds, an asphalt project would be
programmed, designed, and constructed
by the South Dakota Department
of Transportation
(SDDOT).
The STP projects were a
81.95/18.05 cost share where the
SDDOT paid the 18.05% local match
requirement. The other federal program
provided funding to rehabilitate
or replace structurally deficient
or functionally obsolete bridges or
box culverts. Like the STP projects,
the federal aid bridge projects were
programmed, designed and constructed
by SDDOT.
Both of these programs are in mist
of transition in South Dakota from
using federal aid to now use of state
funds. Upon completion of any federal
STP projects programmed
through the year 2018, the federal
STP allocation will be provided directly
to the county at 90.975 cents
on the dollar on an annual basis for
the county to program, design and
construct without involvement from
feds or state.
Currently, the county has
$955,000 in the STP account and
will be borrowing ahead on our STP
funds for the years 2016-2018 for an
asphalt project on County Road 8
starting one mile west of Marvin and
stopping at old highway 81. The last
portion of County Road 8 from
Highway 81 to the Day County line is
scheduled for a lift in 2016. The
county is applying for grant funding
to assist with this project. If the
county receives grant funding or
funds these last six miles, the end result
is that all of County Road 8 will
be upgraded.
Grant County currently has four
structure replacement projects still
in progress within the federal program.
Three are over the south fork
of the Yellow Bank River, and the
fourth is over the north fork of the
Whetstone. Upon completion of
these four structures, the county had
six other structures scheduled to be
replaced using federal funds between
the year 2020 to 2025. These
six structures have been dropped
from the federal program and will
now have to compete for the new
Bridge Improvement Grant (BIG)
that was created during the 2015
South Dakota Legislative Session.
Grant County is one of the few
counties with our own bridge crew.
We try to replace three bridges per
year and range from a low of one or
two to a high of five bridges per year,
dependent on the weather and other
projects. The bridge crew also replaces
culverts. Our material cost to
do a bridge is just under $50,000 a
year. The cost to contract a bridge
runs $250,000 per bridge on up.
With increased construction costs
and lack of any federal increase in
bridge funding, we went from two
bridges per year to one or none with
federal funding. Our bridges on the
STP (Statewide Transportation Improvement
Program) have been regularly
rescheduled to later years to
match the federal revenues.
We currently have 22 bridges that
our bridge crew can complete and 32
bridges that are larger than what our
crew can handle that will have to be
contracted out. The cost of the
bridges that have been on the state
STP plan and scheduled to later
years run from $310,000 to
$462,000 per bridge.
Revenue that is dedicated to the
highway fund has not kept pace with
the costs of maintaining roads and
bridges. The license fees the county
gets have gone up from about
$300,000 per year in the 1990s to
$600,000 by 2006. With the
changes made in the license fees
2010/2011 we are up to about
$1,100,000 in license fees.
Prorate/port of entry fees have gone
from $25,000 to $50,000 in the
same period of time. Wheel tax has
gone from $80,000 to $194,000
over the same period.
Highway department expenses
have gone from under $1 million
dollars per year to around $3 million
per year. In 2004, the cost to seal 34
miles of asphalt was about $129,000
for the materials. We are expecting
that cost to be $445,000 in 2016 for
the same number of miles. In 2004,
asphalt cost for an overlay was about
$39,000 per mile. In 2014 we paid
$106,799 per one mile of asphalt. In
2016 we are expecting the cost of asphalt
to be $110,000 per mile.
To maintain a 20 year life cycle of
an asphalt road, the county needs to
apply a 1.5 inch lift to nine miles of
road each year. Currently, we average
six miles of asphalt with a 30
year life cycle.
The balance has to be made up
with property taxes. We have gone
from having to transfer $425,000
from general fund to the highway
fund in 1999 to $1,289,000 to
$1,618,000 per year being transferred
in recent years.
Senate Bill 1 has provided several
increases in highway maintenance
funding and also provided several
opportunities for local governments
to obtain additional funding. The
county is expecting about $158,000
more in license fees per year and is
estimating $68,000 more from the
wheel tax. In order to get any bridge
grants we will have to compete with
all counties and municipalities in the
state for a $15 million pool. Proposed
competitive scoring system
suggests that increasing the wheel
tax to a maximum of $5 per wheel
will improve our chances of getting
the BIG (Bridge Improvement
Grants) grants. The commission
chose to extend the wheel tax to the
maximum of 12 wheels from 4
wheels so that the users of the roads
and bridges pay to support the maintenance
of the roads and bridges.
The wheel tax dollars are collected
on the local level and used for
county road and bridge projects.
Two requirements from the passage
of SB 1 for a county to be eligible
for the Bridge Improvement
Grant is that the county must have a
wheel tax in place and it must develop
a 5-year road and bridge project
plan that must be submitted,
reviewed and approved by the South
Dakota Department of Transportation.
At this point, we do not know what
the criteria will be used to determine
grant eligibility or if the county will
receive any grant funding. Again, the
cost for replacing these large structures
have a cost of $350,000 or
higher. If grant funding is not available,
the county will have to cover
these costs or the other alternative is
to close the road until funding is
available. The bridges the county
had placed on the Federal Aid replacement
program have been
dropped from the state program
after 2018.
Senate Bill 1 allows the counties to
raise a local levy of up to $1.20 per
thousand on counties under one billion
of valuation.
The initial 2016 highway budget
came in at over $4 million. The
county has since made changes that
will reduce this figure but after looking
at costs and cash projections, the
commission has elected to call for a
portion of the highway road and
bridge levy. The resolution calls for a
50 cents per thousand dollar of value
levy for highway road and bridge
purposes. A property valued at
$100,000 would see an additional
tax amount of $50. This money
would go directly to the highway
fund.
One provision of law is that the
county commission had until July 15
to decide if they would pass a resolution
to request the highway and
bridge levy. Another point of this
new levy is that the commission can
request only a portion of the levy.
For example, as the commission
continues to work on the 2016
budget, they could request a portion
of the levy. If expense and revenue
support only calling for a 30 cent
levy, the commission could do that.
The final tax call for the road and
bridge levy would be done when the
annual budget is adopted the end of
September. The resolution passed at
Tuesday’s meeting set the maximum
levy.
The past several years have seen a
shift in funding for roads and
bridges from federal and state dollars
to local resources. With the cost
of materials increasing on a yearly
basis and the amount of road and
bridges to maintain, the commission
believes the additional funding is
needed to support the work plan
currently being done and to expand
the highway project list to keep the
roads up rather than to let them deteriorate
to the point they have to be
rebuilt.

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