MOUNT VERNON — On Thursday, Knox County Engineer Jim Henry asked the county commissioners for legislation to put a 0.5 percent sales tax issue on the November ballot. Henry said the money generated — an estimated $2.2 million to $2.6 million annually — would be used for road maintenance and repair.
Henry said the county has been able to do ongoing bridge repair and maintenance because of outside funding sources, but, he said, such sources are not available for road maintenance.
Engineer intern Clint Cochran provided the commissioners with charts to illustrate current and historical data about road funds, the number of miles paved per year and the price of paving per mile. He said the sales tax money is needed because the revenue the department receives from motor vehicle funds such as license fees, gasoline taxes and traffic fines has been “flat” since 2005 while the cost of asphalt has increased by 230 percent. The county, Cochran continued, has 400 miles of roads and should pave 40 miles a year to keep them all in good repair.
“We’re falling behind,” said Henry. “We are now about 100 miles behind where we should be. We’ve been patching them to get by.”
Cochran said a pavement condition rating system would be implemented to determine which roads would be “treated” first so those in the worst condition would be highest on the list. If the sales tax were passed, he said, $150,000 a year from the money generated could be made available to the townships to pave township roads and/or serve as the local funding amount for state or federal grants.
In response to direct questions from the commissioners, Henry said none of the money would be used for personnel. He said the staff is available, it’s just the cost of construction that has gotten so expensive. Also, Henry said in response to a question from Commissioner Thom Collier, a one-quarter percent tax would not generate a sufficient amount of money.
Commissioner Roger Reed said other entities/departments have also approached the commissioners concerning sales tax revenue possibilities and they would take the matter under advisement. The commissioners asked Henry and Cochran to provide further information for consideration, including a list of surrounding counties which do have a sales tax to fund roads and how much those sales taxes are.
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