WALKER - Cass County Highway Engineer David Enblom told the county board Tuesday he will begin to prepare a five-year state-aid highway construction program for the first time this spring after several years of having to scale back new road construction.
This action is in response to the state Legislature's recent approval of a new transportation program to authorize higher gasoline and vehicle registration taxes.
Without that additional funding, the county would be looking at stagnant state aid funding through 2013 at $1,592,530 and trying to keep state-aid road maintenance services at the current level by matching that with $770,000 in 2009, $790,000 in 2010 and $835,000 in 2013 from county-levied property taxes, Enblom said. That would amount to about two-thirds paid by the state and one-third by the county.
With increased state highway tax support, the county can expect state aid to increase to 74 percent in 2009, 79 percent in 2010 and 85 percent in 2013, he said. This is based on the state's estimates of revenue the increased gasoline and registration taxes are expected to generate, he added, noting actual collections could vary.
Cass County will receive some additional funding for the local bridge and local road improvements as well.
Several provisions of the new state transportation law, however, benefit only the metropolitan area or other areas of the state, Enblom said.
There are two local-option provisions in the bill, which Cass could chose to adopt or not. If the county board chose to implement a $20 per vehicle registration excise tax here, he said the 45,000 registered vehicles in the county would bring about $90,000 per year into the county highway fund.
If the board chose to ask voters in a referendum to approve a county half-cent additional gas tax and if the voters approved it, that is estimated to bring the county another $974,606 per year. However, Enblom said he doubted voters here would approve that if the referendum were offered at this time following several failed school referendums in this and neighboring counties.
The commissioners voted Tuesday to spend up to $10,000 toward a Brainerd Area Micropolitan Transportation plan should a federal grant be approved to develop the regional plan.
They voted to authorized Enblom and one board member to attend the Transportation Alliance Fly-in at Washington, D.C., to enable the county to lobby for federal highway funding in June. None of the commissioners volunteered Tuesday, however, to accompany Enblom.
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