2018-02-11 / Editorial

Local roads need adequate funding

Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday unveiled a $56.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2019 that could mean additional funding for the state’s roads and infrastructure, and put more money toward the per-pupil foundation allowance for schools.

Snyder’s plan would raise the foundation allowance for K-12 schools by $120 to $240 per student, depending on the district, at a cost of $312 million. The lowest-funded districts, like those in Lapeer County according to state Rep. Gary Howell, R-Deerfield Township, would see the largest increases designed to continue closing funding gaps.

The proposed K-12 increase is twice as large as the version lawmakers approved last year, when they raised per-pupil funding by $60 to $120 per pupil at a cost of $153 million.

The governor is also asking Howell and the Republican-led Legislature to approve an extra $50 for each high school student who is enrolled in a career or technical training program.

The state’s new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, 2018.

In his final budget presentation as governor, Snyder also proposed shifting $325 million in general funds to road and bridge work, more than doubling the $150 million that is called for under a 2015 transportation-funding deal that is being phased in.

Under the budget proposal 39 percent of the road money would go toward Michigan Dept. of Transportation projects, 39 percent to local (county) roads and the remaining 22 percent to city and village roads.

Will it help local roads? Sure.

Is it enough? Not even close.

In the local fund alone, spreading out the new money over the state’s 83 counties amounts to a drop in the bucket of what’s really needed to fix our crumbling roads. At an estimated cost to rebuild one mile of road at $2 million, the money won’t go far.

In Lapeer County, the roads are bad — and getting worse, according to a new report (see front page story) rating almost 1,000 miles of roadway within its boundaries.

The 2017 Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating System (PASER) Survey indicates about 627 miles of roads are rated “poor” — the lowest rating possible in the report.

That 627 miles represents about 65 percent of about 962 miles of roads eligible for federal funding.

It also represents a 20 percent increase compared with the same study conducted in 2013, meaning Lapeer County roads are deteriorating fast.

In November 2014, the Lapeer County Road Commission sought a six-year 1.85 millage proposal to systematically rebuild the county’s roads. The millage would have generated $17.6 million to repair and maintain local roads. It was defeated 15,562 to 13,150 — a margin of 2,412 votes.

A similar bid by the City of Lapeer last November to secure a reliable, local source for road funding was rejected as well. Lapeer sought a six-year, two-mill proposal. It lost by 24 votes, 383 to 359. In November 2015 a similar proposal was defeated by a 17-vote margin, 527 to 510.

This spells bad news for local residents and our vehicles that will continue to be battered by poor roads that are not being funded enough to keep up with maintenance, let-alone total rebuilds that will last 20-plus years.

Still, said Rick Pearson, managing director of the Lapeer County Road Commission, the county road board is not currently considering the possibility of pushing for a countywide road millage. Maybe they should.

The bottom line is that the road commission needs a lot more money than it has coming in if it’s ever going to improve the “poor” rating that so many local roads are in.

That means a road millage will likely need to be considered again. The roads aren’t going to fix themselves, and with every year that passes they will only continue to get worse.

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