Road maintenance funding spiraling downward

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By Carolyn Roy, carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

There could be no money to fund the Parish Government highway road maintenance fund in the first few months of 2020 if the present level of revenue doesn’t increase. Parish President Rick Nowlin presented a road maintenance fund forecast that states the highway budgets will continue to decline to a dangerously low level if the proposed sales tax and ad valorem taxes to not pass. “Both are necessary to implement the scale of improvements we truly need” the forecast states.

Nowlin said that major storms in the past three years, cost of road maintenance and increasing heath care costs have put pressure on the highway fund. “If the tax measures fail to be approved by the voters, the Parish will have no choice but to scale back its highway repair work. According to the forecast prepared by Parish Treasurer Debbie Miley, the cash balances at the end of the year were $1,337,421 in 2017; estimated to be $716,960 in 2018; $390,254 in 2019; and $84,885 in 2020. The cash balances are operating funds until tax collections are disbursed.

The forecast shows that while revenue in 2017 was $3,552,257, it is estimated to be $2,814,701 in 2020. For the four years from 2017 to 2020, salaries will have increased from $621,000 to $751,813; health care from $164,445 to $279,921; retirement/Medicare from $79,594 to $990,052.

Gasoline costs will have increased from $32,329 in 2017 to $50,000 in 2020. Another glaring increase is the cost of oil and grease from $4,588 in 2017 to $19,500 for 2018-2020.

The reason for the huge increase is the cost of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) that lowers the concentration in the diesel exhaust emissions from diesel engines. The forecast predicts an approximately 20 percent drop in revenue. Sales tax revenue that was $3.6 million in 2017 is predicted to decline to $2.8 million in 2020.

With expenses for those four years, Miley predicts the sales tax fund that funds the highway department and solid waste will have a minus $4,974.