Members of the Union Special Road District argued Thursday they serve an important role in the overall transportation infrastructure of Franklin County.
The topic came up at the bimonthly meeting of the Franklin County Transportation Committee, where last month Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker broached the topic of eliminating what he calls “double taxation” for residents living in or near special road district boundaries.
Committee chairman Jonathan Zimmermann, who also is on the board of the Union Special Road District, said he invited other board members, Gene Platt and Dave Bailey, to highlight the usefulness of the districts.
“These road districts were established to take care of the roads leading into the communities,” Zimmermann explained. “That’s our usefulness and I feel we have something to offer the county.”
Zimmermann used the example of the recent work done by the Washington Special Road District on Pottery Road and the safety improvements made.
In recent weeks, Brinker has argued road districts are antiquated and highway administrator Ron Williams has confirmed the county could take on the approximately 60 miles of additional roads with little problem.
“We need to look at the amount of tax money coming to the road districts compared to the number of road miles they service,” Brinker said. “The dollar amount spent per mile is not what it should be for the amount of tax money generated.”
There are four special road districts operating in the county, affecting Washington, Sullivan, New Haven and Union.
The Union Special Road District consists of 21 miles of roads.
The Washington and Sullivan special road districts maintain about 18 miles of roads each. The New Haven Special Road District is the smallest, covering just 2 miles of roads.
About 25 percent of personal property and real estate taxes earmarked for road and bridges go to maintain just 60 miles of roads within special road districts.
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 remain with the county or city instead of being disbursed to the road districts.
Overall, Franklin County brought in $4,402,719 in personal property and real estate taxes in 2018 for the road and bridge fund.
According to the county treasurer’s office, $1,000,385 from taxes and interest was disbursed to the four special road districts.
Last year, the Washington Special Road 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.
Money spent per mile by the road districts balloons from three to eight times as much as Franklin County did on its 800-plus mile system last year.
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 in a special road district.
That leaves Franklin County with $3,664 to spend for each of its 800 miles from the 2018 tax levy alone.
To supplement its road and bridge funds, in 2008 Franklin County voters approved a half-cent sales tax that generates roughly $6 million per 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, which is still below the amount per road mile of three of the four special road districts.
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.
State statutes outline various ways for road districts to dissolve. It may involve a vote of the people in the district.
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.