The Road Division of the Wasco County Department of Public Works is funded by dedicated road dollars. These revenue sources are dedicated to the development, operation, and maintenance of Wasco County's road system.
The primary sources of funding are the Oregon State Motor Vehicle Fund (gas taxes, truck weight/mile taxes, and vehicle registration fees), Surface Transportation Program Fund Exchange (STP) and Federal Forest Receipts.
Gas tax revenue has not seen an increase since 1991.
Since 2000, Federal Forest Receipts were based on historic levels of timber harvest on the Mt. Hood National Forest in Wasco County. Forest receipts had been on a steady decline since 1988, but were increased to the 1991 level (without inflation) in 2000. This funding, known as PL106-393, was a five year authorization that was not reauthorized. However, at the end of the five year period, PL 106-393 was given a one year extension that has since expired.
Now with the loss of PL 106-393, Wasco County's overall road fund revenue in 2007-08 is $1.85M. Last year, 2006-07, the overall road fund revenue was $3.2M. This difference is a 42% decrease in annual revenue in one year.
Decreased revenues coupled with increased materials and personnel costs have forced the Road Division to reduce the number of staff by 23% in one year (from 30 FTE in 2007 to 23 road FTE's in the 2008/09 budget). We are staffed now to direct our manpower efforts mainly to perform routine road maintenance and fight snow and ice. The reduced numbers in maintenance personnel will reflect in the overall maintenance and upkeep of the existing county roads. We will be financially unable to do much if any road modernization projects such as reconstruction or new paving.
The dramatic increase in materials costs is primarily in vehicle and equipment fuel, aggregate and asphalt. The cost of these materials continues to rise. Increases in crude oil prices have raised the cost of asphalt used for chip sealing, blade patching and overlays. The cost of fuel for operating trucks and heavy equipment used in road maintenance has skyrocketed.
Wasco County, since 1973 has utilized a Road Priority System to determine which roads should be reconstructed. The Road Priority System of 1973 is today called the Wasco County Public Works Department Transportation Improvement Program.(link to a copy of the current document) The TIP measures the condition of a road and the service of the road. Elements of the Service Rating include average daily traffic, school and mail routes, economy, recreation, service and community ratings.
The guiding principle is:
"Petitions can bring our attention to problem roads. However; road condition, traffic volume, and the type of use should actually drive the system so that the quietly suffering farmer on a bad road gets the same attention as the squeaky wheel."
The TIP identifies the top candidates for road reconstruction. However, these improvements can only be accomplished if adequate funding becomes available. At the present time, very little reconstruction is possible. These projects will consist of safety-related upgrades and repairs.
Vision of the Future:
We will do whatever we can to maintain the integrity of the current road system. However, with the current level of revenue funding, reduced manpower, and the skyrocketing material costs, maintaining the integrity of the current road system may someday become impossible.
Available resources will be allocated first to maintain the integrity of the County's existing road system; and, second to fund safety-related upgrades and improvement projects identifies in the County's TIP.
Given the current situation of declining revenues and increasing costs, we will continue to look at the means to improve the efficiencies if the Department's operations. We will continue to seek out partnerships and new and innovative ways of doing business to allow us to maintain or increase our level of service. We will try to "do more with less!"