Even if the county wanted to do a bond issue for new roads, it could not.
Those were the sobering words Thursday from auditor Scot Loyd of Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Loyd, LLC of McPherson at the Marion County Commission meeting.
The reason? The cost of roads has tripled but valuations have not.
“When the bond issue was done last time, we were pushing the debt limit. The prices of roads have far exceeded the assessed value,” Loyd said.
He clarified that if the bond issue passes in November and a new county jail is constructed, the bond debt would not be included in the county’s overall debt limit because the jail bond would be paid with sales tax revenue not the mill levy.
In 2000, the county financed $6 million for 43 miles of roads.
“You won’t be able to go and do 43 miles of roads today,” Loyd said.
“Most people will be in favor of an increase in taxes if roads are improved,” commission chairman Bob Hein said.
With that being said, the commission determined that a four-mill increase for Marion County property owners was necessary to at least provide some road maintenance and improvements, and maintain county offices.
“We have to set money aside for big road projects and we haven’t been doing that,” commissioner Randy Dallke said. “It’s no longer $70,000 per mile or $80,000 per mile. It’s probably more like a mill per mile.”
Loyd suggested estimating $120,000 per mile.
Dallke said he had a problem raising the mill levy when the county is “sitting on” $1.5 million in reserve.
“However, it’s a minimum cushion that we have to have,” Dallke said.