County sales tax needed to properly fund roads

IN MY VIEW
Roger TeStroete • Sheboygan County Board of Supervisors

I support the Sheboygan County Board enacting a onehalf percent county sales tax to maintain our transportation system, and I did not reach this decision lightly.

I am a strong fiscal conservative and have been representing the Town of Holland and the Village of Cedar Grove for the past 34 years. I also just completed two consecutive terms as County Board Chairman. I take pride in Sheboygan County’s strong fiscal track record and the opportunity to serve the community.

The Problem

Our transportation infrastructure is aging, and due to escalating costs and limited resources, the state, county and all local units of government are struggling to adequately maintain our roads and bridges.

The life span of an asphalt road overlay is approximately 15 years. In order to maintain the 450 miles of county roads to adequate standards, 30 miles of road should be paved each year. The County is also responsible for maintaining 73 bridges, with the oldest being constructed in 1916.

Each mile paved differs in the amount of work that needs to be done depending on its condition, traffic volume, and time elapsed since it was last rebuilt. Current cost estimates for maintaining County roads are as follows:

•Addinga2½inchoverlay to one mile of road = $120,000

• Pulverizing and adding a 4 inch paving to one mile of road = $250,000

• One mile of reconstructed road = $1,200,000

Unfortunately, over the past ten years, the cost to complete one mile of overlay has more than doubled, and the County has done on average 18 miles of overlay each year rather than 30.

The Solution

In order to maintain our transportation system and be fiscally responsible, we must invest in a comprehensive plan of road maintenance rather than continuing to fall behind which leads to much higher costs.

Our Transportation and Finance Departments estimate that this comprehensive plan will cost approximately $11 million per year in order to keep up with our county transportation system needs.

The State provided the one-half percent county sales tax option decades ago to help alleviate the pressure on property taxpayers. 62 of 72 Counties have already implemented a county sales tax.

It is estimated that approximately $9.5 million would be generated from a one-half percent sales tax in Sheboygan County, and nearly 20% would come from tourists.

Our proposal is to dedicate 100% of the one-half percent county sales tax to support our transportation infrastructure needs and accomplish the following objectives:

• Establish a dedicated funding source to accomplish, at minimum, 30 miles of County road work annually.

• Share $1.5 million with our local municipalities based on their respective equalized value. Each municipality must spend the funding on additional road maintenance and their allocation will grow on a percentage basis going forward as the annual sales tax revenue increases.

• Direct property tax levy relief through reduced debt service.

• Operational flexibility is gained through utilizing sales tax revenue rather than property tax levy to support highway capital and equipment needs.

• By significantly reducing borrowing to maintain roads and bridges going forward, the County will borrow $47 million less from 2017–2030, and taxpayers will save approximately $37 million in debt service over the same time frame.

Sharing Revenue with Municipalities

The past four years I chaired the Heads of Local Government, which is comprised of the chief elected official of each of our 28 municipalities.

The most common topic and area of concern we all shared was the challenge of maintaining our transportation system, which is why we are proposing to share some of the revenue, even though the county could certainly use 100% of it.

At present, no other county in the State is sharing county sales tax revenue with other municipalities to help with their transportation needs.

A cooperative agreement will be established with each municipality to assure the funds are utilized for road and bridge maintenance.

The county sales tax revenue will be shared based on the municipality’s respective equalized value, so it is objective and fair.

We want to avoid debates about who has the least or most roads, which roads are in the best or worst shape, or who has made wise investments in the past, or let their roads badly deteriorate.

Time for Action

In order to maintain the County’s transportation system and be fiscally responsible, we must have an adequate and dedicated revenue source.

By implementing a one-half percent county sales tax, we will address a growing problem, and be far better positioned to maintain our transportation system going forward.

We will also be able to help assist municipalities with their transportation needs, reduce borrowing, reduce debt service, provide property tax relief and gain operational flexibility.

Ignoring the problem or borrowing more and passing on significantly higher costs to our children and grandchildren is not the solution.


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