Camas explores road maintenance options

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In an effort to create a stable source of funding to help support street maintenance, the Camas City Council is currently looking at a few different options.

The city has about 105 miles of paved roadways, ranging from major arterials to side streets.

For about the past three years road maintenance funding, approximately $300,000 in 2010, has been taken from the city’s Real Estate Excise Taxes. In previous years, the city has also contributed some of its general fund dollars to various road projects, and obtained grant funding.

According to Public Works Director Eric Levison, ideally a long-term stable funding source that provides approximately $600,000 annually is recommended to “hold the line” and maintain the bank of roads the city currently has in place.

Among the options that have been discussed to help boost revenues for this purpose is the formation of a “transportation benefit district,” a quasi-municipal organization and taxing district created to fund transportation improvements and maintenance.

Under this TBD umbrella, without voter approval the city council can implement an up to $20 annual vehicle license fee. This option could bring the city an estimated $260,000 to $280,000 each year.

With voter approval, other options under the TBD include property tax levies — a one-year excess levy or an excess levy for specific capital projects purposes; a .2 percent sales and use tax; or an annual vehicle license fee higher than $20, but less than $100.

Levison said he is aware that new taxes are not citizens’ favorite subject, but a long-term solution is necessary to ensure that local roads remain in usable condition.

“There’s a point where we have to find some way to do it,” he said. “If someone knows a better way, we are all ears.”

Funding would support surface treatments and overlays on roads that are currently described as “fair to good.”

Levison compared the city’s current road situation to a house that needs to be painted.

When the paint is merely chipping, work can be put off for a year without much in the way of consequences. But as each additional year passes, the problems compound and soon siding needs to be replaced.

“If we don’t fund it next year, every year we under-fund it, it gets a little worse.”

The council is expected to discuss the issue in the coming months, possibly during the city’s 2011 budget discussions in November and its annual planning conference in January.