Boise County is losing Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funds, plain and simple. These funds are used for the Boise County Road Department. Each year those funds are disappearing. Now the county commissioners are taking a hard look at how to fund road projects and maintenance since they cannot count on any SRS funding in the future. The regular County Commissioner meeting addressed this issue.
The commissioners all agreed that there needs to be public information meetings for Boise County residents to understand the urgency for consideration of creating a Highway District. Commissioner Laura Baker said, “This [reduced funding] has been going on for years now and it would be stupid for us to wait any longer.”
Ward travels through Placerville to Idaho City at least once a week and knows the road can become impassable saying, “It is unbelievably bad and that has got to be taken care of.” “So we would have to create a Highway District?” asks Baker. Ward explains, “We would have to petition the voter and they would have to approve it. It would then take an additional year to get the money once on the tax roles the following year.” Baker confirms, “Then we need to know how much it costs to maintain our roads per year, what our tax population revenue is, and everyone will want to know how it will affect their taxes.”
Ward explains, “If money does come in from SRS funding, then they could have the ability to offset what to collect for the following year for maintenance and improvements. The county has the ability to move numbers around some.” This is something that would need to be transparent every budget year.
“I think we should gather some good information to take to these (public) meetings. We get so many complaints from Robie Creek about the roadway. There is obviously way more traffic now. We need to know what kind of maintenance improvements, if any, we are going to get, and what kind of general improvements we require.” Baker confirmed, “We need to run the numbers to know what costs we have to keep maintaining the road without funding.”
Baker asked, “If there is a highway district does that mean the road department goes away?” Ward and Commissioner Roger Jackson were saying that “yes, then the county commissioners would no longer have anything to do with [the roads].” Baker surmises, “If we lose SRS funds, it is not like we have money to put into [roads] anyway.”
Jackson says, “The only problem I sees in answering those questions is they are going to have to vote in a highway district unless you can set that up some way so that the county still does it.” He questions the district commissioners having all the decision-making power.
Ward wants a good, hard look at how much it costs it makes to maintain all the roads in the county. He says, “There is too much dirt road and not enough asphalt. We are buying expensive road graders which are for dirt work. The bulk of the maintenance work could be done with a good snowplow if the roads were paved.”
At the County Commissioner meeting on December 19, at 1:15 the county road department is being asked to come weigh in about costs and help put together a detailed plan that can go before the public. Residents would help determine changes that might be needed through a series of town hall meetings after the first of the year.
Boise County residents can help determining road needs, requirements and how to fund it. At that time, the public can assess if they want to vote on starting a Highway District, which would be a taxing district. Voting would be during November 2018 elections. If passed, it would then take another year to get the revenues to implement a well thought out and planned highway district.
“If people don’t like the plan and not interested in voting on it, then there would be no point in having an election,” says Ward, “but we need to take a serious run at passing a Highway District and what it going to cost [residents].