Voting

More than $2 million in new funds would be funneled into the county annually if a state fuel tax referendum is approved this November.

Those funds — earmarked for transportation improvements — would be generated through a 10-cent-per-gallon tax phased in 2 1/2 cents over the subsequent four years. The intent is to hike the fuel tax to give local governments additional funds to address aging infrastructure, as well as providing more financial resources to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Franklin County is projected to receive $1,202,759 annually after four years when the full 10 cents is collected. 

If the tax referendum is approved, 70 percent of the tax revenue will go to the state, 15 percent will go to counties based on population, and the remaining 15 percent will go to municipalities, also based on population.

After four years, Washington would receive $219,000 annually, Union would get $160,500 per year, and $110,135 would be distributed to Pacific. Each city in the county would receive a share of the funds. 

Warren County is poised to receive $399,000 annually.

The state Legislature voted in the spring to place the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot to provide maintenance for highways, bridges, roads and streets. If approved, the tax collection would begin July 1, 2019, and would establish the Emergency State Freight Bottleneck Fund.

It is expected to generate $288 million annually to the State Road Fund to provide for the funding of Missouri state law enforcement and $123 million annually to local governments for road construction and maintenance. In addition, the referendum would make prizes for Special Olympic, Paralympic, and Olympic athletes exempt from state taxes.

More information about the tax can be found at Safermo.com.

At the Tuesday, Sept. 4, Washington City Council meeting, Mayor Sandy Lucy said many mayors from across the state have banded together in support of the fuel tax.

“We’ve talked about raising revenue for transportation for a long time, and one other time it made it to the ballot . . . and there hasn’t been a lot of luck,” Lucy said.

“Here in Washington we all know how important transportation dollars are,” she added. 

The city has invited a speaker to the September Washington Area Highway and Transportation Committee meeting Monday, Sept. 24, at 9 a.m. She added that civic organizations will be asked to attend to help spread the word about the proposed tax. The meeting is open to the public and the location will soon be determined. 

“With our new bridge here in Washington, there are a lot of things that will be spinning off of that — improvements to Highway 47, both north and south of the river,” Lucy said. “So it is an important time for us.

“I think it’s important for the region,” she added. “I think it is important for the state.”

The last time the fuel tax was increased was 1996, and since then there have been an additional 2,500 miles of construction in Missouri, according to Lucy.

“We’ve been trying for years to get something even started to cover transportation because our roads are getting worse and worse throughout the state,” added Councilman Joe Holtmeier, who serves on the city’s transportation committee. “This is a really big deal.”

He added that Missouri ranks toward the bottom when it comes to transportation funding,

Union

According to City Administrator Russell Rost, Union spends about $500,000 on street projects annually.

The city would consider using the additional funds for grants — if it’s allowed. However, Rost said he isn’t familiar with the finer points of the measure.

The city regularly applies for projects paid for by federal grants. The grants typically require a 20 percent commitment from the city. A $1 million project would require $200,000 from the city. 

If they couldn’t be used for grants, Rost said the city still would find a place to spend the money. An additional $160,000 annually would help pay for additional street, sidewalk and bridge work. 

“All of those things could be positively impacted,” he said. 

Rost said the money could help fix a “gap” in the city’s budget. 

“We’d be able to keep up a little better than we have,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of maintenance, but we could be doing more.”

He called the city’s current approach to street maintenance “triage.” 

Even without the potential funding for Union, Rost said the tax would help the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT). 

The city has had conversations with MoDOT about a number of projects, namely the Highway 50 and Highway 47 intersection. A lack of money is often cited as a reason for projects not moving forward. More revenue for MoDOT would mean more projects statewide. 

“The biggest impact we would see is the amount the state would have to spend on the systems that pass through our town,” Rost said.

Pacific 

Mayor Steve Myers told The Missourian he would like to see more funding for city streets.

“Of course that would allow us to better maintain the 35 miles of roads in Pacific,” he said. “Presently, Pacific does not have a dedicated funding stream to maintain our roads outside of the funding provided by the state gas tax. 

“We rely heavily on this revenue stream and have found it to be less than adequate to maintain our streets to the quality level our citizens expect and deserve,” he added.