The Pima County Board of Supervisors meets this morning to consider how to fix pitted and, in some cases, crumbling roads.
The board is considering a list of 18 funding suggestions from County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. He says the county wouldn't be in the position of finding new road money if the state hadn't shifted local road revenue to other uses.
The sweeps mean the county has 10 percent less state funding for roads this year than it had in 2002.
"A lot of that is related to these legislative sweeps where the state legislature has taken local road money to balance their budget. Part of it is related to just simply the fact that the price of gasoline is high and people aren’t driving as much and therefore there’s less revenue," Huckelberry says.
Of the 18 proposed funding sources for road repair, Huckelberry favors five ideas that involve shifting county funding to free up money for road maintenance.
One of his suggestions is to take some of the transportation department’s other funding and use it on potholes, and three of his suggestions involve using general funds on road repair.
The general fund is the portion of the budget from which many Pima County departments get operating revenue, and the Board of Supervisors can adjust annually how much of that money gets spent in each department.
His fifth suggestion is to lobby the state to stop sweeping transportation funding from cities and counties in order to balance the state budget.
“We’re hopeful that they’ll end the sweep next year," Huckelberry says. "If so, once that sweep ends we’re able then to take $7 million and reinvest in our highway system. That would be a welcome relief. The Legislature needs to return the money they’ve borrowed...so that local governments can make street and highway investments.”
Supervisor Ann Day is one of the Pima County board members who has been concerned about the conditions of the roads. Voters in her northwest side district are outspoken that something needs to be done to fix the bad roads in their area. They’re even submitting petitions to the county asking for road repair.
She says she supports all five of Huckelberry’s recommendations, but doesn't want to do it at the risk of more debt.
"I will be supporting Chuck’s five recommendations, but it’s more than potholes--it’s getting into resurfacing, because so many of these streets are just down to bedrock," Day says.
Some of the other options Huckelberry lists, which are not among his top choices, include a new county property tax for roads, asking the state to allow impact fees for road maintenance instead of just road construction, and reprogramming RTA funds.
That last idea, using the Regional Transportation Authority’s half-cent sales tax for new road construction instead of road repair, is one Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik is floating.
“Within the enabling legislation there is specific language that says if the RTA is to add an element, road reconstruction, to the package, the voters get to make that decision. Not the RTA and not the Board of Supervisors," Kozachik says. "My proposal is take that to the voters, and I would like to do that as early as the special session for the CD8 voters in June.”
Day says she, like Huckelberry, doesn't support that idea. The Legislature would have to put it on the ballot, Huckelberry says. Road repair wasn't written into the plan because voters weren’t concerned about road maintenance when they approved the 20-year plan and half-cent sales tax, he says.
“In 2006, the RTA made a pledge to the voters that what they vote for is what they’re going to get. I think trying to change that in mid-stream is really not keeping faith with the voters. People will say times have changed. The only thing that’s changed is that the state Legislature has taken our HURF money," Huckelberry says.