About 25 percent of the total taxes collected for the Franklin County road and bridge fund go to maintain just 60 miles of roads, all of which are in special road districts.
Five years ago, officials from three of those districts were in favor of dissolution and allowing the county to take over maintenance of the roads in their systems.
Last week, Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker broached the subject to members of the Franklin County transportation committee to mixed reviews.
There are four special road districts in the county — Washington, Union, Sullivan and New Haven.
Those respective 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 roughly 60 percent of the city limits.
Road districts maintain roads that are outside of city limits and do not fall under county maintenance.
The special road districts get revenue from a property tax levy.
If the road districts dissolved and became part of the county maintenance, that would not mean the tax levy would go down and the money would just remain with the county or city instead of being disbursed to the road districts.
The Washington and Union districts are the largest of the four, covering about 20 miles each while the New Haven district is the smallest with only about 2 miles. The Sullivan district has about 18 miles.
“These districts were established in the early 1900s to help rural residents get items from farm to market,” Brinker said. “They filled a role in between city and county services of roads. Today the county or municipalities should be responsible for the roads and infrastructure.”
Overall, Franklin County brought in $4,402,719 in property and real estate taxes in 2018 for the road and bridge fund.
According to the county treasurer’s office, about a quarter of that, $1,000,385 from taxes and additional financial institution and interest, was disbursed to the four special road districts.
Last year, the Washington district received $529,006; Union, $237,888; Sullivan, $163,436; and New Haven, $71,040.
The cities share of the taxes in 2018 was $470,968 and the remaining $2,931,365 stayed in the county coffers.
As the county’s assessed valuation continues to go up, more tax monies are collected each year and then trickled down to the road districts.
Since 2014, the amount of tax revenues coming in to the road districts has increased by $103,486.
Based on the 2018 funding, the Washington Special Road District received $26,450 per mile; Union received $11,894 per mile; Sullivan received $9,079 per mile; and New Haven received $35,520 per mile for its 2 miles of special road district.
That leaves Franklin County with $3,664 to spend for each of its 800 miles from the 2018 tax levy.
Franklin County also has an additional half-cent sales tax for roads and bridges, which generated more than $6.4 million last year.
If Franklin County were to absorb the four special road districts and the taxes disbursed to them annually, it would essentially have an extra $1 million to use on the 60 new miles of county roads, equating to $16,698 per new mile.
According to 2018 sales, personal property and real estate taxes going toward the road and bridge fund, the county would have collected roughly $10,331,750 without the existence of the four road districts
That would equate to $12,360 available per mile at 860 miles.
State statutes outline various ways for road districts to dissolve. It may involve a vote of the people in the district.
The road district commission seats are elected positions and in come cases the districts do not have employees or own any of their own equipment.
The Washington Special Road District receives the most tax money from the county, which is more than double what the Union district receives based on the size of the road district.
Sixty percent of the county road and bridge property tax paid by Washington property owners goes to the road district, 25 percent is for the city and 15 percent goes to the county.
People who live on road district roads but outside of the city limits pay 80 percent of their road and bridge taxes to the road district and 20 percent goes to the county.
People who do not live within a city or on a road district road pay 100 percent of their road and bridge taxes to the county.
According to Missouri State Statute 233.290, the county commission could dissolve the special road districts, but certain criteria have to be met, including not electing officers or not performing duties.
If good cause exists why a road district should be dissolved, the county commission shall, on the next meeting of the county commission, make its order of record that such road district be dissolved; the county commission shall proceed to hear evidence on the matter, and if it appears to the satisfaction of the county commission that no good cause exists why such road district should not be dissolved, it shall enter its order of record that such road district be dissolved.