By Angelo Parlove
The City of Saline needs to find additional funds to maintain the road network within the city – one way or another.
“The status quo in my opinion is not acceptable, because our roads are going to rapidly deteriorate,” Mayor Brian Marl said. “There has to be a paradigm shift.”
To just maintain the status quo – to hold steady – the city will need to spend about $900,000 per year on its roads. To show marked improvements, the City of Saline will have to incur as much as $1.2 million in costs annually.
“At $1 million per year, we start to see a slow, steady increase in the quality of our roads,” Director of Public Works Jeff Fordice said. “At $1.2 million per year, there’s a really strong and steady increase in the quality of our road network.”
In any scenario, whether the city decides to hold steady or seek some kind of increase in quality, additional funding will be required. One option would be to increase the local operating millage, which would allow the city to fund the roadwork yearly on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Whether its $900,000 or $1.2 million annually, it would require an increase of at least 3 mills. The city is already over 14 mills, and mill limitations will not allow the city to exceed 15. “There isn’t a whole lot of capacity left for anyone of those scenarios,” City Treasurer Mickie Jo Bennett said.
To exceed the 15 mills, the city would need a charter amendment, which would require a proposal on a ballot and voter approval.
Another option is for the city to issue debt, where bonds would be issued in intervals over the next 10 years, with the payback period between 15-20 years. The third option is to levy a special assessment, which might work for local roads, such as neighborhood streets, where homeowners with adjacent properties can be assessed for the roadwork.
“Those are some of the funding options the city is working on, trying to figure out the feedback from the community as to what’s best,” Bennett said.
The city is in the process of obtaining that feedback from the community. Mayor Marl handed out a questionnaire to residents at his latest coffee hour on May 23, seeking input on how the city should handle its infrastructure needs. The matter is also expected to be addressed in the city’s FYI newsletter in the near future.