For the past decade the budget for the Holmes County engineer’s office has remained level at $4.5 million. However, the cost of doing business has gone up drastically since that time, and now Young said it is time to initiate a solution if the county wants to maintain the kind of county roads the people of Holmes County deserve.
The issue of maintaining the county’s roadways has arisen because the cost of asphalt has increased greatly over the decade, despite the county budget remaining at the same number it has been since 2005.
According to Young, the cost per ton for asphalt has gone from $23.25 per tone to $57.58. Meanwhile, through attrition, the county staff has dropped from 43 people to 30. Hence, the $4.5 million budget does not go nearly as far as it did in 2005.
“We have worked hard to keep up with fewer people, but because of the rising cost of asphalt and our budget remaining the same for 10 years, we now have to find a way to generate additional funding to properly maintain our county roads,” Young said.
Young said a number of years ago that the idea was to rotate work on county roads every seven years, meaning any given road would be asphalted every seven years. However, as the costs increased, that number went from 10 years to 15 years, and now Young is concerned that even that would be an issue.
With 250 miles of roadways to cover, along with 287 bridges and a large number of culverts, the need to generate further income is a necessity according to Young.
He said the office explored a number of options including adding a $5-per-license-plate fee, but that would have only generated $150,000, nowhere near enough.
The county eventually settled on working toward passing a five-year increase to sales tax of 1/4 percent.
“We have talked to a lot of people and gotten a lot of feedback, and this seems to be the best possible option,” Young said. “One thing we have found is that people want well-kept roads, and since Holmes County is one of the largest tourist attractions in the state of Ohio, the sales tax increase would generate a lot of money coming from visitors outside of Holmes County.”
Young said the purpose for making it a five-year proposal rather than a permanent one was simple. He believes that the results they can achieve in the first five years will speak volumes as to how well his department can maintain the roads with the new sales tax in place.
“If approved, people will see immediately how much this improves our county roadways, and we will accomplish our goal of improving half of our county roads during that first five years,” Young said.
Young said that all of the sales tax generated from the 1/4 percent would go toward contracted projects that are directly related to road work on county roads.
“The longer we put off fixing our roads, the more it is going to cost to fix them in the long run,” Young said, “And with the cost of asphalt rising, the need to create more income is a necessity. The same with the price of salt. It has also increased greatly, and that means more expense to the county for salting our roads during winter. We have been trying to cut corners where possible, but we are now at the point where we simply can’t keep up with the budget we have been provided. Our infrastructure with our roads is too important not to be able to stay on top of these issues. We felt that with so much tourism driving our county, this is the most favorable way to raise the needed funding.”
According to Young, maintaining roadways in the county is crucial, but Young said there is an additional benefit to the proposed sales tax.
“We plan to set aside 10 percent for county projects, much like the county bed tax does with its funds,” Young said.
Thus, if a township has a request to make improvements, or if there are other county improvement proposals, the engineer’s office will allot 10 percent of the sales tax generated to go toward the selected projects.
Young said that while they realize no one wants to see additional taxes, this presents the least intrusive way to make sure Holmes County roadways are viable.
In order to give the public an opportunity to learn more about the projected sales tax and voice their opinion or ask questions, the engineer’s office, along with the county commissioners, will present a pair of public hearings to flesh out details concerning the sales tax proposal.
The meetings will take place at the Holmes County Commissioner’s office on Monday, July 11 at 9 a.m. and Monday, July 18 at 7 p.m.
Published: July 4, 2016