County hears road budget ideas

The Webster County Board of Supervisors held a budget hearing for its engineer’s office Friday.

Randy Will, county engineer, requested a budget of $10,939,611 for the 2015 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2014. The amount is $50,000 more than its estimated 2014 budget.

A priority for the office is road maintenance, Will said.

“Vehicle miles traveled daily, Webster County is the fifth highest in the state,” Will said. “We saw 300,000 miles in travel every day on the county roads. That averages to about 250 miles per road.”

For the Road Department, Will said he expects an estimated revenue of $4,072,458 from road use taxes, which is about 49 percent of the department’s revenue.

“We rank 10th in the amount of revenue we received for road use tax,” he said. “That tells me roads are pretty important.”

Another 32 percent of the department’s revenue, totaling $2,625,155, comes from property taxes. The amount is down $14,887 from the previous year.

“That was used to replace more posted bridges. And I’m requesting you leave that the same,” Will said. “We ended up doing 10 posted bridges last year. And in addition there were two road projects.”

A new expenditure, Will said, is planned improvements to Otho maintenance facilities. Improving the facility is estimated to cost $1.2 million, or 12 percent of the office’s budget.

“We might have to do it in a phased approach to get it done in the time we need to get it done,” he said. “The big picture, five years or 20 years, once we get the Otho maintenance facility taken care of, there’s two more big steps in the county, I believe, and that’s Gowrie-Callender, Harcourt-Dayton, that are. Both facilities need to be upgraded.”

Will requested temporary use of U.S. Highway 20 funds to cover the cost of the Otho project.

According to Will, when the Board of Supervisors took jurisdiction over the highway, its transfer came with a payment from the Iowa Department of Transportation. In 1988, the board chose to reserve those funds for future maintenance and construction of the highway.

The earmarked money is a subfund of the county’s secondary roads fund.

“To reduce the use of Highway 20 funds, I could cut back on construction. I could cut back on new equipment. I could cut back on road repairs,” he said. “There’s some flexibility.”

He added, “I would really like to salvage this site. I don’t want another site. I want efficiency.”

Supervisor Merrill Leffler concurred.

“I don’t imagine it would be more efficient to buy another site,” he said.

The hearings are only to determine spending authority, Supervisor Clark Fletcher said, with discussions on funding sources to happen later.

“It’s the bottom line that’s going to dictate everything,” he said.

The supervisors will continue budget hearings Monday at 9 a.m. at the Webster County Courthouse.