Background: In 2011 a road study was begun which ended up projecting that the cost of repairing Highland’s D & F rated roads would be $16.2M. As the sturdy was reviewed by staff, residents, and council members a number of issues were uncovered which council and staff felt warranted a second opinion.
Earlier this year we executed a contract with PEPG Consulting to reassess C- through F rated roads in Highland using a core sampling methodology. Coring gives engineers a much better ability to assess the condition of a road segment and recommend an appropriate treatment. While the study was underway a committee composed of residents, staff members, and council members met monthly with PEPG to review the progress and provide input. I really appreciate those who participated.
The report produced by PEPG is well written and easy to read (click here to read). If you only have a couple of minutes I would recommend reading the executive summary on pages 3 and 4.
203 road segments were evaluated with the result that the 2011 estimate of $16.25M to repair the D and F roads was reduced to $5.05M. Note, the $5.05M estimated included C-, D and F roads.
Here’s a quick summary of the 2016 road survey. Note, a number of roads were upgraded from the prior study (some of them had been repaired or seal-coated) but we are still puzzled by the outcome. The term “patching” is used when a less than 15% of a road segment can be repaired by reconstructing or otherwise fixed
The table below shows note only the cost of repairing the roads but also gives a recommended timeframe to execute the work before the cost of repair increases significantly due to further deterioration. The alternate repair cost estimate shows what the costs could be if we don’t repair the roads before the deteriorate to the next level. Note, the previous study did not provide any recommended timelines.
After the report was presented the council asked staff to put together estimated repair and maintenance costs over the next 5 years for all roads (A through F) so that we can better assess the financial needs of the city relative to roads. Note we did have some discussion on options going forward but these were very preliminary. Here is a summary of the discussion plus some of my thoughts assuming the need will be an additional $5M over the next 5 years:
- Our bond for pressurized irrigation will be paid off in 6 years. This costs us about $427,000 per year. We could defer the repairs until the bond paid off and institute a fee or property tax to raise $427,000 and use this to fund the delayed repairs. However, there will be additional costs as the roads will have deteriorated and we may never be able to catch up.
- Raise property tax, a fee, or a combination property tax and a fee to generate an additional $1M for 5 years. If we went with a property tax only it would result in a 54.3% increase in your city property tax or a 7.6% increase in your total property tax bill.
- We could bond for the amount and it would have a lower annual impact on the city budget (i.e. the property rate or fee increase would be lower) but it would cost us more over the long term. For example, if we did a 20 year bond at 4% it would cost us an additional 50%.
- We would do some combination of the above.
Note, if we go with a fee or fee plus property tax increase then I would recommend that the fee portion be a Public Safety fee. If you look at public safety spending between 2006 and 2015 (10 years) it rose from $1.26M to $3.04M ($1.78M or 141%) while roads and transportation went from $540K to $871K ($331K 61%). The increase in public safety expenditures exceeded the total tax revenue increase during that time period. Translated, we dramatically increased the public safety level of service without adequately funding the increase. It did put pressure on the city to become more efficient (which is a good thing) but also cut into the funding of important items like roads.The city ran an online and paper survey of residents asking about the condition of their neighborhood road, if they would support funding road repairs and what method they would prefer to use. There were fifteen paper and seventy-four online survey respondents. Below is a summary of the poll data.
Note, a few respondents wanted more options to the question of how to fund the repairs than a fee or property tax increase. These included: cutting expenses and increasing local sales tax. Feel free to share your thoughts via comments or email, or phone. Please be as specific as possible.