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Road funding slipped in 2014

Gravel spending $123,000 less than 2010

News editor

Marion County road and bridge spending from two key funds grew by $1.9 million from 2003 to 2013, an 83 percent growth rate that was four times that of overall county expense growth rates.

Then in 2014, expenditures on roads and bridges from those funds dropped by $1million.

Is the cutback the cause of this year’s debacle on gravel and dirt roads? No.

The county planned to spend that money on asphalt projects that were canceled because of weather, commission chairman Dan Holub said.

Road and bridge finance is no simple matter. Money is spent from no less than six separate funds, and they can’t be added together. Some funds, such as the special equipment fund, get money from other funds.

This newspaper asked county clerk Tina Spencer for county financial audits from 2003 to 2013 and unofficial figures from 2014, to look at what the county has been spending from two accounts, both of which are funded directly by taxes.

The most familiar is the road and bridge fund, which gets its money through property taxes. A smaller account receives a portion of the county’s share of the 1 percent sales tax.

The data indicate:

  • $2,257,489 was spent from the combined funds in 2003; $3,096,568 was spent in 2014. The high year in the range was 2013, when $4,141,460 was spent.
  • The two funds accounted for 20 percent of all county expenses in 2003; 34 percent in 2010; and 23 percent in 2014.
  • Annual expenses from the road and bridge fund increased by 32 percent from 2003 to 2014; the smaller sales tax fund increased 117 percent during the same period.

The road and bridge fund is broken down into additional categories of administration (which includes consultant fees), blacktop, gravel, and shop:

  • Expenses for administrative personnel in 2014 were $207,163, representing 7.4 percent of expenses in the fund. The 12-year average for administrative personnel was 4.8 percent.
  • $581,597 was spent in 2014 for gravel commodities, which in addition to gravel includes rip rap. $739,979 was spent for gravel commodities in 2010. Both figures were 20.7 percent of road and bridge fund expenses in their respective years.
  • Gravel personnel costs dropped to a low of $396,918 in 2012. By 2014, they had risen to $463,957.
  • As a percentage of total road and bridge fund expenses, total gravel expenses, both personnel and commodities, were highest in 2003, at 40 percent; lowest in 2013, at 26.4 percent; and were at 37.2 percent in 2014.
  • Blacktop total expenses for 2014 were $747,396, representing 26.6 percent of total fund expenses. In 2003, the numbers were $199,074 and 9.4 percent, respectively.

Numerous factors influence expenditures in each fund and can change yearly. This analysis does not present total amounts spent annually on roads and bridges.

Last modified July 22, 2015

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