Weiss asks for increase in tax levy for roads

Also discusses impact of electric cars on road use tax

While most people still see electric cars as a novelty, Greene County engineer Wade Weiss has already identified their growing use as a potential threat to funding for road construction and maintenance.

The fiscal year 2019 budget Weiss presented to the county supervisors Jan. 25 includes nearly $3 million in road use tax, which is collected as a tax on fuel.

“These electric vehicles sound cool. They’re not going to help us in road use tax generated. We’ve got to figure something out,” he said. “We’re always lagging four or five years behind, having to wait and get something initiated.”

Weiss is active in professional organizations and is president of the Iowa County Engineers Association. He hopes to encourage a proactive effort in Iowa to find a way to maintain road use revenues as motorists transition from gasoline to electric cars. He told the supervisors he plans to attend the annual conference of the National Association of Counties (NACo) rather than the National Association of County Engineers (NACE) as part of that effort.

The proposed secondary roads budget calls for $1.19 million in property tax funds and $51,500 from the local option sales tax. State funds in addition to the Road Use Tax Funds include $375,000 from the state’s Time 21 fund, which comes from vehicle registration fees.

Total revenue is pegged at $6,665,634, including a beginning fund balance of $829,000.
Total expenditures are estimated at the same amount.

Construction projects for FY19 include repaving two miles of County Road E-18 (130th St) east of County Road P-29 (site of the old brick schoolhouse) and replacement of E-18 bridge over Buttrick Creek. Construction of the bridge won’t be started until August to comply with rules to protect the very common in Iowa but federally protected Topeka shiners. Cost of the bridge is estimated at $700,000.

He also plans to finish the approaches to the bridge on County Road E-57 (290th St) east of K Ave. Work on that bridge was moved up after a Pepsi truck struck it. The bridge itself was completed before the 2017 construction season ended, but it was built five inches higher than the road surface and the approaches are still only gravel. Markings still need to be put on the bridge as well.

Total roadway construction and maintenance are estimated at $2.5 million. General roadway expenses (equipment, equipment operations, tools, materials and supplies, and work on the Jefferson shop) are estimated at $2.83 million. Much of the work at the Jefferson shop is related to underground storage tanks and is matched by a corresponding revenue line showing state reimbursement for the work.

Before presenting his budget, Weiss reminded the supervisors that the county does not levy the full amount allowed by the state for secondary roads. The county levied $2.02 (per $1,000 of taxable valuation) for secondary roads, while the maximum allowed is $3. Webster County and Carroll County both levy the maximum amount, he told the supervisors.

He calculated that levying the full amount would generate an additional $524,832. He said he is not asking for that large of an increase, but he thinks a 3 percent increase in the secondary roads levy in both the general basic and the rural basic funds would be reasonable. In the 24 years he has been county engineer, the levy rate has not been increased, he said.

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