The Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) Board of Road Commissioners voted unanimously on Thursday, Sept. 22 to approve a fiscal year 2012 budget that’s $7.5 million below the current budget.
The 2012 budget is pegged at $100.65 million compared to the $108.16 million 2011 budget adopted last September, and includes a $2.7 million reduction in expenditures for operations compared to the current budget. The 2012 budget also includes $28.1 million worth of work on road improvement projects with a total value of nearly $36.7 million (many of the projects include expenses spread over several budget years); about $69.6 million in operating expenditures; and another $2.95 million in traffic signal projects.
RCOC’s fiscal year runs Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.
In the lakes area, two major road projects are planned in 2012, including completely reconstructing Pontiac Trail between Maple Road and South Commerce Road; and paving the gravel portion of Cooley Lake Road from East of Duck Lake Road to Mystic Valley Street on the borders of Commerce, White Lake, Milford, and Highland townships.
Though federal road funding coming into the RCOC in 2012 is expected to increase compared to the 2011 fiscal year budget figure, the 2012 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 to road projects that help attract jobs or help mitigate congestion caused by previously attracted jobs.
RCOC anticipates receiving $56.8 million in state revenues in fiscal year 2012, slightly below the amount received in the current year, which was the fifth straight year that the RCOC’s state revenues 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, while the costs of fuel, salt, asphalt and other road-related materials are expected to rise higher than in 2000.
“We are charged by the public with using their money to accomplish the greatest good on the county road system. We take that responsibility very seriously, and it is very frustrating to see our resources continually shrinking,” said Board of Road Commissioners Vice Chairman Greg Jamian.
The RCOC’s new budget calls for keeping 121 staff positions vacant — a staffing reduction of more than 20 percent since 2007. That number is expected to grow in subsequent years.
“That means that today we have 21 percent fewer employees than we had in 1974, when we had far less traffic and road lanes,” said Board of Road Commissioners Chairman Eric Wilson. “Clearly, that is having an impact on our ability to provide services.”
The 2012 budget represents the agency’s efforts to cut costs where possible while impacting services as little as possible.
“Once again in 2012, we will not be filling any position that is vacated unless it is absolutely critical,” said Road Commissioner Ron Fowkes. “As a result, we are calling on our employees to continually try to find ways to do more with less or at least to maintain the best possible level of service with fewer resources and less staff.”