Not much highlighted, since it's a piece on the whole budget, is the fact that the gas tax is falling further and further behind on our basic needs for potholes. But not mentioned at all is the way our committment to building new roads and new road capacity exacerbates the whole mess - why are we building new stuff if we already can't maintain the old stuff?
|Preview of next year's budget: Fewer resources for potholes|
City government still is shrinking. City staff would be reduced by a little more than 6.5 full-time equivalent positions in the draft budget. The reductions primarily are from positions already trimmed, mid-year, and positions left vacant.The gas tax and other car user fees don't come anywhere close to full funding for roads. The general fund supports maintenance and a property tax bond is doing all the road bond construction - $100 million worth! - since 2008. This is the trade-off: If folks want to pay less at the pump, then they end up paying more on their house. (So, equally, if folks want to pay less at the pump, they may pay for streetlights instead.)
Deeper budget cuts — perhaps as much as $6 million over five years — may be needed in future budget cycles if city revenues continue to lag behind costs, Norris said...
Salem Public Works Director Peter Fernandez, who also will give a presentation to the budget committee, said roads that are in bad shape will continue to be in bad shape. Projects to maintain roads, such as applying asphalt overlays, probably won’t get done, he said.
As Fernandez explained, the city will continue to fill potholes. Unfortunately, there may be more potholes to fill with fewer resources. Funds to pay for street maintenance are being squeezed for a couple of reasons:
• The draft budget cuts general fund support for the transportation fund, which pays for street maintenance, to zero, he said. As late as fiscal 2010-11, the transportation fund was getting about $1.2 million from the general fund.
• Revenue from gasoline taxes steadily has dropped because people are driving less and using more fuel efficient vehicles.
No layoffs are expected in public works, but the department will not fill four vacant positions in street operations and maintenance, Fernandez said.
Budget cuts might revive discussions about a streetlight fee. [italics added]
An economist would observe that sends messed up pricing signals to the market: The costs of using the roads are shifted to your house! Shouldn't the cost and pricing signalling of using the roads be more squarely linked to cars and car use? We haven't adjusted the gas tax in 20 years, and inflation alone has hollowed it out - that is, our pricing hasn't even kept pace with inflation.
(And then there's that pesky fact that urban renewal funds have propped up the downtown parking district. There's a huge, systemic, and essentially unacknowledged, subsidy for car users.)
|ODOT's Funding Crunch|
|Federal Highway Trust going Broke in August!|
And not at all addressed in the piece is the fact that the road bond construction has a bunch of capacity increases. Most of the projects in "congestion relief" and a lot of them under "safety improvement" are simply widening projects. That's like half of the bond - that's adding $50 million worth of new construction to the list that we already can't afford to maintain!
Why are we adding anything to the list of things we can't afford to maintain? That's messed up, too.
The City Budget Committee meets tonight, April 9th, at 6pm at City Hall in Council Chambers.
Also - Cherriots
|Cherriots Route Coverage in West Salem|
Footnote on T-Bone Crashes, April 19th
|I would draw a very different conclusion: 20 is plenty|