A rumble about road money pitted Precincts 1 and 2 against Precincts 3 and 4 at the county commissioners’ regular meeting Monday.
They decided to divide the road-and-bridge tax dollars for fiscal year 2013 based on road miles, despite the protests of Commissioners Harry Lamance and Terry Ross in Precincts 3 and 4, respectively.
Lamance made the motion to return to the half-and-half formula – half the money is distributed according to precinct population and half according to road miles. This was the formula used from 2005 to 2010.
Ross seconded the motion, amid sighs from Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White and Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns.
The vote was 2-2: Lamance and Ross for it; White and Burns, against.
County Judge Bill McElhaney cast the tie-breaking vote against the motion, which meant they would revert to the formula based on road miles, which was used for fiscal years 2011 and 2012.
“Terry, I’ve got three times the roads you do,” Burns told Ross.
Lamance told him that didn’t matter.
“You had money left, and I had none [at the end of the fiscal year],” he said. “My roads are expensive to maintain.”
Lamance has 176.5 miles in Precinct 3, 95 percent of which are paved, and Burns has 332.80 miles in Precinct 2, 72 percent paved.
There are 233.05 miles in Precinct 1, 74 percent of which are paved, and 213.30 miles in Precinct 4, 97 percent paved.
“I can’t put out the type of hot mix you put out, or I would have no budget to improve what’s out there,” Burns told Lamance.
At the end of fiscal year 2011, commissioners put a portion of their leftover road money in a road-and-bridge reserve fund. This was to be used by any precinct for roadwork, as long as the withdrawal was first approved by the other commissioners.
In October 2011, Precinct 2 moved $500,000 to the reserve fund, and Precinct 4 moved $400,000. Precincts 1 and 3 had no “extra” to put in reserves. Each precinct was left with the following in their individual road-and-bridge accounts to finish out the calendar year: Precinct 1, $500,000; Precinct 2, $600,000; Precinct 3, $400,000; and Precinct 4, $600,000.
“I don’t believe in that reserve fund,” Lamance said. “If (the money) had been used properly, it wouldn’t be in there.”
He indicated Burns should have spent all the money given to his precinct for roads and wondered why he had so much left to put in the reserve fund.
“How much money was left over?” Lamance asked. “(When you look at) how much money I used and how much money you used if we divide it different, you would still have as much money as you ended up with.”
Burns prefers to have money left at the end of the fiscal year in case of emergency.
“I’ve sat through some floods that cost us three-quarter of a million dollars,” he said. “If you choose to spend your money down to $0, and we have to rely on general fund to take that out of I think that’s irresponsible.”
Lamance also has an additional $600,000 in thoroughfare money in the road-and-bridge reserve fund that can be used for any type of roadwork.
Every year the county puts $300,000 in this account, and it’s designated for different precincts in alternate years. In fiscal year 2012, $150,000 each went to Precincts 1 and 2, and in fiscal year 2013 it will go to Precincts 3 and 4.
Established in 2005, it could only be used for tearing out and rebuilding roads or building new ones. It could not be used for maintenance, but since the Precinct 4 balance has grown so large and most of its roads are paved, commissioners earlier this year agreed Lamance could use that money as needed for maintenance.
Lamance said he wasn’t paving anything in his precinct right now, but he did plan to pave some roads in the fall.
“I think all the roads in the county should be paved before we build some superhighway in your precinct,” Burns said.