Washington County commissioners have agreed to give county townships between 20 percent and 40 percent of the money collected from the county's annual 1 percent permissive sales tax, to be used for township bridge and road repairs.
Both trustees and the Washington County Engineer had recently requested more of the funds for that purpose. Last year, 15 percent of the funds went to that purpose.
"They all agreed that the percentage would be somewhere between 20 and 40 percent (which) the county engineer's office and the townships would share," said Belpre Township Trustee Asa Boring.
The exact percentage will not be determined until later in the year, as Washington County determines its 2013 budget.
"We'll start meeting with agencies and departments...the second week of November," said Washington County Commissioner Tim Irvine. "By law, we have to adopt a budget by the end of the year."
"For sure we will decide during that process the amount of money going to roads and bridges," Irvine added.
By the numbers
At the Washington County Commissioners' Sept. 27 meeting, commissioners agreed to give county townships between 20 and 40 percent of the money collected from the county's annual 1 percent permissive sales tax, to be used for township bridge and road repairs.
In 2012 the county collected nearly $6.8 million in total sales tax, with nearly nothing allocated to bridges. An additional $737,000 was distributed to township roads.
In 2011, 85 percent of county sales tax revenues went to the county's general fund and 15 percent to bridges and roads
Source: Washington County Commissioners, Washington County 1 percent Permissive Sales Tax Summary 1984 to 2012.
Safe and maintained roads for township residents are key, commissioners said.
"Our roads are important and we want to give as much funding as we can to keep our roads safe," said Washington County Commissioner Cora Marshall.
Washington County Deputy Engineer Roger Wright was in agreement.
"The public would like to have a certain level of service, and we'd like to maintain that service," he said.
Budgets and funding-or lack thereof-are the primary issue for all concerned parties.
"(Washington County) definitely has felt the crunch like everybody has as far as dollars we can use for service," Wright said. "Fuel, materials and equipment-all of those have gone up."
Grants and other funding sources have also been used.
"There's only so much grant funding out there that you can apply for," said Wright.
Marshall said she understands that funding has been cut for the county engineering department and townships, just as they have been for Washington County.
"We have unfunded mandates from the state that we have to take care of," Marshall said. "When they cut our local government funds,...it just all filters down at the county level."
Washington County, the county's engineering department and county townships are working together to find the appropriate funding solution for sharing the 1 percent permissive sales tax revenue among the three parties.
"They're trying to cooperate with us," Boring said. "We will probably do a little more negotiating but I think there will be a decision made."
Boring said it would take time to get the percentage of the shared sales tax back to where the townships would like it to be.
"We're working our way back to a more feasible amount of money for the townships," he said.
The Washington County Township Association's 1 Percent Sales Tax Committee had proposed a split of 40 percent to townships and 60 percent to the county's general fund at the commissioner's Sept. 27 meeting.
In further discussion at the Sept. 27 meeting, Irvine said he would like to see a portion of the formula for the sales tax revenue "reflect the financial condition of the townships."
"I want to be clear that all the townships should share in the sales tax," Irvine added. "Right now the (tax) formula is solely based on roads. You could have two townships with similar miles of roads but one could have significantly more revenue than the other."
"Should that formula be changed for a short period of time for struggling townships that do not have revenue coming in?" she said.
Marshall also indicated she will pursue establishment of an "emergency fund" for townships. The fund could be used for items like land slips and bridge repairs that fall outside a township's regular operating budget.