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Oswego Board wants to see street funding options : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Oswego Board wants to see street funding options
Annual funding gap to maintain streets estimated at $1.1 million

by John Etheredge


Oswego Village Board members unanimously agreed this past week they are interested in considering various options to raise revenues to pay for the maintenance of village streets.

Steve Jones, village administrator, told the board Jan. 21 village staff would prepare "several alternatives and packages" for the board to consider.

Potential funding options include imposition of a local gas sales tax or increasing the village's existing home rule sales, utility or natural gas taxes, according to information presented to the board by Jones and Mark Horton, the village's finance director.

Village President Brian LeClercq told the board he would like to see language included in any fee or tax hike proposal that would restrict the use of the revenues to be generated for street maintenance only.

Noting that government "has a tendency to move money around," LeClercq said, "I think the roads will always need to be tended and we know with all the new subdivisions we've had come in the number will be magnified in the years ahead-it won't ever decrease. So, we really need to hold fast and say this is revenue for our roads."

Jones agreed with LeClercq and said any ordinance the board would adopt to increase revenues for street maintenance could include language that would segregate the revenues into a separate fund.

Village staff has previously advised the board the village is facing a significant shortfall in revenue over the next decade if they wish to maintain local streets in their current condition.

For the past several years the village has relied on state-reimbursed Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) funds to finance the village's annual street maintenance program.

MFT funds are reimbursed to the village on a per capita (per person) basis. The village is expected to receive $500,000 in MFT revenues for the 2015 fiscal year, which will begin May 1.

However, village staff estimates the village will require $1.3 million in street maintenance revenues for 2015, and an additional $1.1 million annually over the next 10 years if the board wishes to maintain local streets in their current condition.

The projected shortfall is based on a 2011 village street condition survey and is due largely to the aging of streets in subdivisions developed in the village over the past 15 to 20 years.

Board member Pam Parr said she believes the board has a fiduciary responsibility to maintain the streets and that all of her board colleagues "are in agreement on that."

Continuing, Parr said she would like to see the village maintain its street maintenance program at its current level "realizing that we have to generate some revenues.

She added, "I'm interested in seeing some options on how we can maintain the safety of our streets."

Board member Terry Michels said he agrees that "it is the expectation of our residents that we have roads that are safe and certainly comfortable to ride on to the best of our ability."

In studying the options to raise revenues, Michels said he would like to see proposals that would require residents who live outside the village to also shoulder a portion of the burden of a tax hike or fee increase.

Board member Tony Giles also agreed but said he wants to make sure the village's current method of rating the condition of local streets is accurate. The village's public works department uses the condition ratings each year in determining which streets will be included in its MFT maintenance program.

Giles noted that there was a street in his neighborhood that was resurfaced last year that, in his opinion, didn't need to be resurfaced.

Referring to the street, Giles said, "I don't know if it was resurfaced by mistake or what. (But) there is no reason why it should have been resurfaced. It was perfectly fine in my book."

Board member Scott Volpe also questioned the village's current street condition ratings.

"While I drive through some relatively new neighborhoods, I'm already seeing problems in the roads," Volpe said.

Volpe added, "I'm not arguing with the price of the program. It is what it is. I just want to make sure when we make decisions we're going to know whether the (dollar) numbers are going to go up or if they may go down."

Jennifer Hughes, the village's public works director who began work with the village in late November, said the condition ratings are based on visual inspections completed in 2011. The streets are rated on a scale of one to five with streets rated four and five in need of resurfacing. The village has had a goal of maintaining streets at a three rating.

Hughes said the village's goal should be to repair or resurface streets before they need to be rebuilt.

Referring to Giles' comments about a street being resurfaced that might not have needed it, Hughes said, "If you have two bad roads in a neighborhood and a third one that maybe isn't as bad but you know you can get the whole neighborhood done and get out of there you might accelerate that third road just to make sure you're not going to disrupt the neighbors another year. It's possible that road was accelerated for that reason."

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