Supervisors fret over road fund cuts

Published 8:56 pm Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Big cuts from big budgets make headlines statewide, but forlocal officials it’s the small cuts made to small budgets that aremost problematic.

The tens of millions of dollars Gov. Haley Barbour has shaved offthe state budget has resulted in the Office of State Aid RoadConstruction pulling $93,000 out of Lincoln County’s fund – a smallamount in the grand scheme of things, but a hard blow to an alreadyailing state account. The office supplies matching funds tocounties to help them maintain non-state-owned roads.

“That’s a pretty significant hit. You’re looking at close to$100,000,” said Lincoln County Board of Supervisors President DougMoak. “We had to rebid our reseal project last year because it wasway above estimates, and then you lose another $100,000 on top ofthat.”

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Moak pointed out supervisors have already had to scale backrepaving work, combine state funds to pay for emergency projects,reduce the quantity of overall roadwork and seen wait times forstate approval on some jobs increase.

On top of reduced funding, State Aid has also put a hold onadvertising for new projects and awarding contracts, Moak said.Supervisors are confident pre-programmed projects will still bepushed through the office for approval, but new projects may beanother story – a possibility that creates concerns for thecounty’s four-year road plan and leaves roads to deterioratefurther without work.

“The age of our State Aid roads is getting on up there, and theonly way we can keep them up is with county funds, which will bevery difficult,” Moak said. “We’re going to have to really buckledown when it comes budget time.”

And fiscal year 2010 isn’t over yet. More cuts are a possibility asstate revenue continues to build up under expectations.

“If they cut now, odds are they won’t add it back,” said countyengineer Ryan Holmes, of Dungan Engineering, PA.

Holmes said Lincoln County should be able to absorb the State Aidlosses as is, but future cuts would mean more problems for countyroadwork. He said the governor is also considering cuts to StateAid’s Local System Bridge Program fund, a financial loss that wouldplace Lincoln County at a further disadvantage with its more than300 bridges.

“Every time they take money out it’s going to hurt our plans.That’s less and less we’re able to do,” Holmes said.

In the meantime, the only thing supervisors can do is to be heard.Moak, who works in legislative affairs with the MississippiAssociation of Supervisors, said supervisors statewide are lobbyingthe Legislature for at least some of the State Aid cuts to bereinstated and warning against deep cuts for the fiscal year 2011budget.

Moak said supervisors would take time to do more lobbying on behalfof county affairs Wednesday while attending Brookhaven Day at theCapitol.

“If we don’t get help from State Aid, it’s just going to have tocome out of county coffers. There may have to be some cuts in someother services,” he said.