The Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) has unveiled a proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2011-12 budget that calls for another round of cuts to the agency’s operations in light of another year of revenue shortfalls.
“Again this year, we have a very tight budget,” RCOC Board Chairman Eric Wilson said.
The proposed FY 2011-12 budget, which comes in at $100.65 million, represents a decrease of $7.5 million in revenues compared to the $108.16 million FY 2010-11 budget adopted in September of last year, and includes $2.7 million in expenditure reductions for operations compared to the current budget. The proposed budget includes $28.1 million worth of work on road improvement projects with a total value of nearly $36.7 million; however, many of the projects include expenses spread over several budget years.
Though federal road funding funneled to the RCOC in 2012 is expected to increase, the proposed budget is less than the 2011 budget primarily due to an anticipated decrease in state Transportation Economic Development Fund (TEDF) dollars and declining contributions from local units of government. TEDF funds are targeted at road projects that help attract jobs or help relieve congestion caused by previously attracted jobs.
Federal funding, which is generally tied to specific road construction projects and cannot be used for routine maintenance operations, tends to fluctuate considerably from year to year.
The RCOC anticipates receiving $56.8 million in state revenue for the upcoming fiscal year. That’s virtually the same amount received under the current budget, and the fifth straight year that the RCOC’s state revenue declined after being flat for nearly 10 years.
State revenues, derived primarily from the state-collected fuel taxes and vehicle-registration fees, are the RCOC’s largest source of funding and the main funding source for RCOC operations. The 2012 state revenue level will remain below the level received in 2000.
“We’re pleased we will receive more federal funding for road improvement projects in 2012 than in 2011, but that will not help us with routine road maintenance activities such as patching potholes, plowing snow or grading gravel roads,” said RCOC Board Vice-Chairman Greg Jamian.
He added that the RCOC currently has 116 fewer staff members than in 2007, a reduction of more than 20 percent.
“The staff reductions mean the RCOC has fewer employees today than at any time since at least the 1960s, when the county had half the population it has today, there were far fewer road lanes and traffic volumes were dramatically less than they are today,” said Road Commissioner Ron Fowkes.
The RCOC will not be filling any position that is vacated unless it is absolutely critical.
RCOC Managing Director Brent Bair said the years of declining budgets are taking a serious toll on the road commission.
“Every service we provide has been impacted,” he said. “In the past, we warned motorists that winter plowing and salting would be reduced. Now, the impact is being felt everywhere.”
He said it’s taking the agency longer to patch potholes and respond to other citizen concerns.
“We are also doing less of many of the operations we perform, including everything from guardrail repair to lawn mowing,” Bair said.
In the lakes area, two major road projects are planned next year, including completely reconstructing Pontiac Trail between Maple Road and South Commerce Road in Walled Lake; and paving the gravel portion of Cooley Lake Road from east of Duck Lake Road to Mystic Valley along the border of Commerce, White Lake, Milford and Highland townships.
The RCOC’s fiscal year runs Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.
The proposed fiscal year 2012 budget will be presented at a public hearing tomorrow, Thursday, Aug. 18, at 7:30 p.m. in the Oakland County Board of Commissioners Auditorium, 1200 N. Telegraph in Pontiac. Final adoption of the budget will take place in September.