Syracuse residents to speak on road-funding options
By ANTONE CLARK
SYRACUSE -- City officials appear poised to postpone any decision on how to raise additional revenue to address deteriorating roads until local residents have a say.
At a work session Tuesday, Mayor Jamie Nagle and members of the city council outlined a plan to vote on putting a $3 million bond before local voters this fall, and then, after the results of the vote, move ahead with a possible maintenance fee that would be added to monthly utility bills.
The council is expected to vote on putting the bond proposal before local residents as soon as the Aug. 9 city council meeting. The potential bond vote would be Nov. 8.
The Aug. 9 date is also key to another initiative, which has been put forth as a possible solution to the road maintenance issue. A truth-in-taxation hearing is scheduled that evening to address a budget proposal, which includes a 28.7 percent property tax increase.
City officials approved an operating budget in June, but a final budget has not been enacted, pending results of the taxation hearing.
Nagle said delaying any immediate decision on funding for local road woes fits well in a time frame after a potential bond vote.
She said Mike Waite, director of public works, suggested the city wouldn't be in a position to do any road repairs late this fall because of the weather.
She and City Manager Bob Rice also said some things are in the works that may improve the city's financial picture by November, when the bond vote is expected.
Nagle said delaying any decision on a potential maintenance fee will give city staff a chance to plan on a road program with a specific figure in mind.
The maintenance fee is just one of several financial options being considered by officials as they wrestle with what they estimate to be a $2.89 million shortfall for immediate road repairs, plus a projected need of $10 million to complete all roadwork over the next five to 10 years.
In the past fiscal year, the city had just $78,000 to spend on road repair and maintenance.
Rice has said a sales tax bond of $3 million would probably come with a projected interest rate of 2.8 percent over a 10-year period and cost the city as much as $500,000 in interest in that time.
The city currently owes more than $15 million in bonds, Rice said, but there is room to bond for road money if the public elects to use that option.
Rice estimates that a property tax increase for a two-year period would generate just more than $900,000 for roads, while he projects a revenue stream of $477,288 a year with a $6 maintenance fee, $556,836 with a $7 maintenance fee and $636,384 a year with an $8 maintenance fee.
Besides discussing the bond, city officials also addressed another road-funding option during the work session.
City officials talked about taking steps to ensure that class B and C road funds are used for road maintenance only and not used for other budget needs.
The city receives approximately $650,000 a year in class B and C road funds, but for the past few years, most of that funding has been diverted to address salaries and wages, Rice said.
He noted that almost $450,000 a year of that funding has been diverted to other uses, leaving just $200,000 a year dedicated to the roads.
Rice said funding for snow removal, salt and maintenance also comes out of the revenue source, which has dwindled what is left to address road needs. He said the city needs to spend about $850,000 a year just to maintain what it has.