Washington City Council Chambers

Dissolving special road districts would divert local funds from the area around Washington and spread them throughout the county.

That is the take of Washington Special Road District Commissioner Ed Fischer, in response to the recent conversations calling for a closer examination on the needs of the districts.

“I think it is a mistake — it is even a mistake to think about it,” he said.

Fischer’s comments were made Monday at the Washington Area Highway Transportation Committee meeting. He explained that road districts funnel taxes to specific areas to maintain those roads.

Franklin County Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker has been leading the charge to take a closer look at the necessity of the four special road districts in the county — Washington, Union, Sullivan and New Haven.

The Washington Special Road District maintains 18.2 miles of road.

If the districts were to be dissolved, the county would take over maintenance of the roads.

“There is no way that they can provide the service to the people around Washington that we do,” Fischer said. “It is impossible — most people in the road district will tell you that.”

Brinker first publicly discussed dissolving road districts at the Sept. 19 Franklin County Transportation meeting in Union. He said the special road districts once were useful to travel from farms to market, but have since become antiquated.

“We haven’t put it out there to do anything but make the government more efficient,” Brinker told Washington Area Highway Transportation Committee members.

He offered the example of Bluff Road improvements because the road runs through three entities — the city of Washington, the county and Washington Special Road District.

Brinker noted that  the county has been approached by residents and officials are simply exploring the necessity of the districts.

“No lashes are being taken,” he added. “There is a solid review going on.”

Tax Funds

Franklin County collects real estate and personal property taxes and then disperses them to the taxing districts in which a resident lives.

Taxes are used by the county and municipalities for road, bridge and other infrastructure projects.

Franklin County collects a half-cent sales tax, which generates about $6 million annually exclusively for the county road and bridge fund.

The special road districts get revenue from a property tax levy.

Brinker said the road districts are an additional layer of unnecessary government.

Road districts encompass the entire city limits of both New Haven and Sullivan; the Washington Special Road District covers about 80 percent of the city limits; and the Union Special Road District encompasses approximately 60 percent of the city limits.

However, the Washington Special Road District only maintains about 18 miles of roads.

That is why Brinker has questioned if the road districts actually benefit city residents who are already paying a tax to municipalities for roads and infrastructure.

According to Brinker, the dissolution of the special road districts would not lower residents’ taxes, but would ensure they weren’t being taxed twice, or three times, for the same services.

Fischer took exception to the comments that residents within the special road districts pay “dual taxes.”

“Nobody in the road district is paying twice,” he said. “The tax won’t go away, it will just go to the county.”

Fischer also stated that road district board members are volunteers and are not paid for their work.

“We do a good job with what we’ve got,” Fischer added. “I can defend whatever has been done, if need be. We are not wasting money.”

The road district commission seats are elected positions and in some cases the districts do not have employees or own any of their own equipment.

“I thank all of the (road district) board members for their selfless service,” Brinker told Fischer.

Fischer noted that the Washington Road District has been focusing on Pottery Road. 

“I think we have made Pottery Road a lot better,” Fischer said.