Trustees receive sales tax revenue

With Washington County townships struggling with budget issues and the never-ending need to repair, maintain or replace roads and bridges, township trustees and residents were glad to learn that more money is on the way for their roads and bridge structures in 2013.

Washington County commissioners appropriated 24 percent of permissive sales tax revenues to townships in its 2013 budget, approved Monday, to be used for roads and bridges in townships county wide.

Under the 1986 tax code enacted by Washington County commissioners, 85 percent of annual 1 percent permissive sales tax revenues were to be used for bridge approaches, bridge and road maintenance, repair, replacement and improvement. The remaining 15 percent was for the county’s general fund.

Over the years, the formula for annual allocation of county sales tax revenues has been at the discretion of the Washington County commissioners.

In 2011, 85 percent of county sales tax revenues went to the county’s general fund and 15 percent to bridges and roads, according to Roger Wright, deputy engineer for Washington County.

“Once you cut funding down like that township roads are going to deteriorate over time if they aren’t maintained,” said Wayne Mulligan, 78, of Little Hocking, who said he supported more money going for that purpose.

For 2013, the new 24-percent figure will be divided into two categories.

Twenty percent of 2013 permissive sales tax revenues, or $1,485,400, will go to Washington County townships, said Commissioner Tim Irvine.

An additional 4 percent of permissive sales tax monies in 2013, or about $300,000, “will be set aside in a special projects area,” said Irvine.

“At this particular time I’m satisfied with the 20 percent,” said John Karas, Muskingum Township trustee and member of the Washington County Township Trustees Association. “We’ve made a little bit of ground with commissioners in the past year and a half. I still think we have a long way to go.”

Bill Bedilion, Sr., 83, of Little Hocking, said he is pleased with the commissioners’ 20 percent figure.

“It just takes so much money to operate (roads and bridges). The road upkeep cost per mile is tremendous,” Bedilion said. “I know the townships need all they can get to keep things going.”

Mulligan was in agreement.

“Belpre Township roads are in fairly good shape, but I’m sure neighboring townships need more money than some of the townships like Belpre that are more prosperous,” he said.

Karas said he also favored the idea of a special project fund.

“There’s a need for some kind of money, should a township need some kind of matching funds and doesn’t have it,” said Karas. “It was a new twist and it (showed commissioners) thinking out of the box.”

Irvine said his ears “perked up” when he heard about the special projects fund.

“There are some projects…that we come up against like emergencies of some sort,” he said. “If we (township trustees) get into a bind that we really can’t afford, they would help us out.”

Bedilion also approved of the commissioners’ move to create a special project fund.

“It’s the right thing to do, to have that emergency backup,” he said.

No structure or guidelines have been set for how the approximately $300,000 in special project monies will be accessed and disbursed.

“Should it be a formal application? Should trustees make a phone call?” Karas asked. “We’re going to allow the township trustees association to help set up those guidelines.”

Currently, neither Karas or Irvine feel the township trustees or its association will ask for additional percentages in 2013.

“The association and all the townships are willing to ride the wave with the county with 1 percent permissive sales tax revenues,” said Karas. “When (county commissioners) are having a good year, we’ll have a good year with them. When they’re having a bad year, we’re willing to go that route too.”

However, all bets are off for 2014 for one township trustee.

“We will go back probably in September, and start talking with commissioners to get more money in 2014,” said Asa Boring, Belpre Township trustee and member of the Washington County Township Trustees Association. “We’re going to try to get back a few percentage points every year…until we get what we think is an equal share.”