Where is the Funding Coming From This Year?
Boise County – For the Road and Bridge Department of Boise County there is uneasiness these days when looking at current and future budgets. The department depends on Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funding and Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) programs to operate on. These are government programs to help schools and road departments, making it possible for the road and bridge department to not require taxing the county for funding their budgets. That may need to change in the future.
Due to considerable decline in Federal timber sales, SRS payments were designed to offset loss of the local share of the revenue generated from the timber sales. Because of the large amounts of National Forest land, approximately 80% of Idaho counties received these funds.
The current SRS program expired in the fall of 2015 and has not been reauthorized. There have been no payments for nearly a year. Without SRS funding the reduction of services from the Road and Bridge Department will be inevitable.
The Boise County Commissioners discussed this topic at the last meeting. Bill Jones, Road and Bridge Superintendent discussed some of the budgetary numbers and concerns due to the SRS funding shortfall expected. Jones also mentioned that he “sees no additional funding coming in”.
Jones said, “Essentially we looked at our budget and extracted everything we possibly could. And there is some money where we could have extra. I am not trying to get it down to the penny, but trying to get it close. So we are projecting right now to be one hundred fifty thousand over what we will receive in revenue.”
“I don’t know what [commissioners] have in mind to do. I would like to keep the workforce the way it is if there is any possibility just because if we start to lose guys then it is very difficult to replace them. I would like to ride this storm out for at least twelve months until we can determine and see what the [constituents] choose. If the [constituents] choose not to fund this department, then we will have to reduce services. We don’t have any choice. So that is a huge impact and people probably don’t really understand.”
Creating a County Highway District is an alternative to lack of funding the road department is encountering. Jones says, “I think it is simply unrealistic for us to continue to step back and think that somebody is going to replace [funding] with the current administration. Not likely to happen. Last payment was $727,223.
In Jones report he stated, “We just make our payments on our equipment that we have and we grade and patch potholes, we will still be short of what we are going to have in revenue. This is after removing everything possible.” The Road and Bridge Department’s primary income comes from fuel taxes and SRS funds. Jones agrees that the SRS funding has been a “black cloud over our heads”. He will compose a list for the commissioners to show services that will be cut if there is no new funding available. This can be provided to constituents of the county as public meetings going forward to answer questions.
Commissioner Roger Jackson reminded Jones about part of the Banks Lowman Road nearest to Lowman that needs chip seal through a proposed grant. Cost to the county is around another one hundred fifty thousand of matching funds. Ward said, “That could be a few years out but at this point there is no way.” Jones agreed, “Well at this point in time it is not something we can do. We certainly do not have to accept that [grant]….but it would be a terrible thing for the [chip sealing] to [not happen].
Alan Ward, BOCC Chairman stated for the record, “People may not realize that the SRS and PILT dollars are not being appropriated or reauthorized….so we are looking at a four hundred and fifty thousand dollar shortfall.” This is under a normal budget. Ward commented, “This is very, very serious. We may have to hold some public meetings about this and the considerations of developing a highway district.”
County Clerk of the Board, Mary Prisco, noted that the SRS funding going to schools is reduced as well. Twenty two thousand is all that will be distributed to the three school districts in the county. She asked for some sort of chart or graph be produced that would help the public to understand the reduction of funding rates.
Prosecuting Attorney Dan Blocksom asked to get estimates of costs for setting up a highway district. After a series of public meetings a Highway District could be voted on in a November general election. The next general election takes place on 2018. Elections Clerk Sarita Loya is going to look into this further with the Secretary of State since this is a county matter.
A Highway District would change the road and bridge department as it is operated currently. Districts require their own commissioners. The BOCC agreed that this will be an ongoing discussion to determine if Boise County is in favor of this.
Written by Janet Juroch – BCC Staff