Roads & Taxes: Lodging tax, roads and ‘The Rock’ highlight county’s year
Published 3:00 am Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Looking back on 2015 from the perspective of a couple of Pike County Commissioners, there were three issues before the commission that stand clear.
“Roads and bridges,” said District 2 Commissioner Robin Sullivan. “Every year, roads and bridges are an issue for us. Our infrastructure is crumbling around us and we just don’t have the funds to do the needed work on the roads or the bridges.”
Sullivan said there has been no increase in the fuel tax revenue since 1992 and the commission doesn’t have a tax on diesel fuel, which would bring in dollars to the county.
“We’re still operating on 1992 revenue,” he said. “Roads have been and still are a big issue with us, but it’s like that all over the state except for the rich counties. Out of 67 counties, there are probably 10 that have the funds they need to keep up their roads.”
Sullivan said the commission voted to impose a 4 percent lodging tax that will be split with the City of Troy.
“The county will get 2 percent of the tax revenue and half of that will be placed in a rainy day fund and the other half will be designated for roads and bridges,” he said. “We voted not to spend the money from the lodging tax for a year. We’ve only got one month’s revenue from the tax and we can’t determine anything by that.”
Sullivan said it will be good to have some funds coming in that may be used in the event of natural disasters that damage roads and bridges. “Back when we had a tornado come through, we had a million dollars in damages and it took more than a month to get our money from the federal government,” he said. “Funds from the lodging tax would help us get started with cleanup efforts that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”
The future of the Rock Building is an issue that continues to plague the Pike County Commission with no solution in sight, Sullivan said.
“The Rock Building was a prominent issue this year and it will not be over for a while,” he said. “The commission put aside $50,000 for the Rock Building project and had planned to set aside another $50,000 but level funding took that away. So we have $50,000 and whatever amount has been donated from the public – around $12,000 or so.”
Sullivan said a big plus for the county is that it has good employees who are dedicated and hard working.
“We’ve got fewer employees than in the past and they are doing the same amount of work,” he said. “We are fortunate to have such good employees and we appreciate their dedication and commitment.”
District 5 Commissioner Charlie Harris cited the same issues as Sullivan as the most pressing to come before the commission in 2015.
“The passing of the lodging tax was especially important because it will be added revenue and those tax dollars will come from people that are just traveling through,” he said. “That will be money that we would not have gotten otherwise and it will help our county financially.”
Harris also said half to the tax revenue the country receives will go into a rainy day fund and the other half used for roads and bridges.
“It’s always good to have some money set aside for things that are unexpected,” he said. “Although this tax money is not earmarked, the plan is to use it for road work, bridges and equipment. And, that’s a big need.”
Harris said he’s in favor of the preservation of the Pike County Activities Building or the Rock Building, which continues to deteriorate.
“I’d love to see the Rock Building replaced but the Pike County Commission has no way of financing the project – not at this time.”
Harris said the commission has explored several avenues of funding of the preservation of the Rock Building including federal dollars but has met only roadblocks. “The building needs to be saved but so far we’ve not found a way,” he said.
Both Sullivan and Harris are optimistic about the future of Pike County, which is home to good people who are community minded. The commissioners said 2015 was a productive year for the Pike County Commission and the outlook for 2016 is positive.