County engineer backs gas tax hike

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(Posted Feb. 28, 2019)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Madison County Engineer Bryan Dhume is urging the Madison County commissioners to show support of Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposal to hike the state gas tax from 28 cents per gallon to 46 cents per gallon.

The gas tax funds road and bridge maintenance at the state, county, city, village and township levels. The current funding is falling $2 billion short per year for needed road and bridge work across all levels across the state, Dhume said.

“To fill that $2 billion hole would take a 30-cent increase. The governor’s proposed 18-cent increase would raise $1.2 billion. So, it’s not enough to fill the hole but it will fill a significant part of it,” Dhume said at the county commissioners’ Feb. 26 meeting.

Based on the current funding distribution formula, the Madison County Engineer’s Office would receive an additional $1.77 million per year in gas tax revenues if the increase is approved. The county’s city and villages would see increases, too. For instance, London’s gas tax take would go from $349,441 per year to $603,553 per year. The annual allocation for each of the county’s townships would go from $90,475 to $151,989.

“I’ve been saying for years I could use another $2 million a year just for paving,” Dhume said.

Ideally, Dhume said, he would like to repave 15 miles of county roads each year. Due to lack of funding, his office is repaving three to four miles of roads each year. He noted that the road and bridge work his office performs is funded entirely by gas taxes and license plate fees. No property taxes are used.

The governor’s proposal is a “best case scenario,” Dhume said, when it comes to cost to local residents. To raise the same amount of money locally would take a half-percent increase in the sales tax, which would cost residents more than the increased gas tax, he said.

DeWine’s gas tax increase is part of the proposed state budget, which must be passed by the end of March. If the gas tax is approved as part of the budget, it will go into effect in July.

Elections equipment

The Madison County Board of Elections (BOE) will be getting new polling equipment this summer. The only change voters will see is a larger display screen. Otherwise, the new machines will work the same way the old ones did.

The state has set aside funding for all Ohio counties to replace their aging equipment. Madison County’s allocation is $530,522, which will cover the cost of 30 machines and the accompanying software the county needs, with $160,000 leftover.

Tim Ward, BOE director, said the county would have needed all of the state allocation and more if the board had not drastically cut the number of precincts and polling places in the county. Since 2006, the numbers have gone from 44 precincts and 17 polling locations to 24 precincts and six polling locations. Ward said the leftover state money will be used to replace equipment as needed years down the road.

The new machines will be used for the first time in the November general election.

Ward also reported that Aaron To will be named the new deputy director of the Board of Elections at the board’s March 3 reorganizational meeting. To replaces outgoing deputy director, Mark Erbaugh.

Clock progress

The commissioners made a couple of design choices for the tower clock restoration project. At one point in its history, the face of the clock in the courthouse tower was black and the hands and numerals were gold. The commissioners opted to stick with the current color scheme–a white clock face with black hands and numerals. They also selected a design for the shape of the hands. The hands will be made of pine; the numerals will be made of aluminum.

Phil Wright, owner of The Tower Clock Co. in South Charleston, is heading up the restoration. Currently, he is refurbishing the original clock mechanism, which dates back to 1892, and working with a fabricator to replicate the original numerals. He said the entire project should be finished by Christmas of this year.

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