The Fiscal Year 2017 Budget was approved last Monday. Other than a couple of department changes, the substance of what was expected from the FY2017 budget stood, with one important exception.
Funding Major Highway Improvements
The Commissioners Court moved $6 million from our reserves to an expenditure line for major highway funding needs that might arise.
The subject of the surplus comes up from time to time when we talk about the need for highway improvements. But that money is not available for use, except in the case of an emergency.
This year, we freed up some funds so that they will be available without a declaration of emergency.
Keeping Your Tax Bill In Check
The $6 million comes from our surplus, so it doesn’t in any way impact the effective tax rate we approved. We may or may not spend the $6 million. But in order to be authorized to spend it, it had to be in an expenditure line.
While that decision increases the final budget amount, it is necessary to keep our major highway planning moving as quickly enough to keep up with the demands of our growing population.
Making Up for the Shortfall
I agreed to the $6 million dollar move on the same day that I learned of extreme shortfalls in the latest transportation funding measures. Proposition 1 (the Rainy Day Fund appropriation from oil and gas taxes), and Proposition 7 (the sales tax appropriation) were the last legislative measures signed into law that were intended to fund transportation.
Proposition 7 does not take effect until FY2018, but the sales tax decrease this year means that funding could fall far short of the projections used when the bill was passed into law.
Instead of the several billions projected as the total from both propositions, this year (if both had been in effect) would have yielded somewhere on the order of $650 million. That is a huge shortfall in projected funding for transportation across the state.
Meeting Our County’s Needs
Fortunately, Collin County is in a position that allows us wiggle room. Even in the case of reduced state spending on highways we can work toward matching the pace of our major highways to the pace of our growth.