The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

County road funds down despite rise in Motor Fuel Tax

Joy Swearingen, Quill correspondent

The increase in fuel taxes at Illinois gas pumps, starting in July 2019, was supposed to give more road money to counties, towns and townships in their Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) payments. And it did.

However, reduction in other state funding will end up in a net loss of money available for roads in Hancock County.

County Engineer Elgin Berry shared information about the changes with the county board in the Highway, Road and Bridge report at their Jan. 21 meeting.

"They made a big deal about doubling the fuel tax from 19 to 38 cents per gallon," Berry said. From September to December, the county's average MFT increased about 62 percent, from $27,871 to $45,287.

Two other funds changed.

The Consolidated County Allotment was reduced by 75 percent, from $121,935 in 2018 to $30,550 for Hancock County in 2019. This is a yearly payment from the state general funds for additional roadwork.

Another fund, the State Matching Assistance, will be eliminated altogether in 2020. This fund was used to pay the local 20 percent required for federal 80%-20% road projects.

Hancock County received $144,024 in 2019 and $140,289 in 2018 to help with federal matching projects. It was not renewed after the new MFT rate was increased.

"The net effect is that we went backward in road and bridge funds in Hancock County," Berry said.

In his report to the board, Berry noted that in 2019, Hancock County's total state aid for roads decreased by $83,113 or 12.7 percent compared to 2018.

Based on current trends, in 2020, Hancock County is projected to have decreased revenue from all state sources of $79,275 or 12.1 percent compared to 2018, according to the report.

Townships will see an increase in Motor Fuel Tax, but a similar 75 percent cut in a second road fund. Berry said townships have a fund similar to the Consolidated County Allotment.

In October 2018, the county received $240,000 to be divided among its 22 townships for roadwork. The 2019 allotment was not received until January 2020, and it was cut to $57,000 to be split among the townships.

In October 2019 at the fall meeting of Illinois Association of County Engineers, Berry learned that the two funds for counties were cut and reduced. They were told that it could be reinstated at the fall legislative veto session, but that did not happen.

He stressed that these three funds, Motor Fuel Taxes, the County Consolidated Allotment, and the State Matching Assistance, are not the county's only source of funds for roads. There are local property taxes, federal grants, and other special funds.

"The biggest thing will be coming up with the 20 percent local share for federal projects. It is going to make a difference," Berry said.

"I'm not wanting to be hard on the state, but these are the facts. These are the numbers we are dealing with."