Roads discussion

REACTING TO VARIOUS budget scenarios (from left) are Dick Johnson, Madison County highway superintendent; Troy Uhlir, commissioner; and Ron Schmidt, board chairman.

MADISON — Madison County commissioners knew repairing all the county’s asphalt roads would be costly, especially after the damage from the March floods.

That reality set in this week when the commissioners began looking at how getting a lot of those repairs completed will crash the coming budget and affect others in coming years.

Part of the problem is that the cost to get some of the most urgent projects completed and 20 miles of asphalt resurfaced would well exceed the county’s levy limit. The county has about 125 miles of asphalt, and much of it was in need of repair even before the flood.

Even if there were no limits on the levy and the county bonded much of the work, it looks as if the levy would need to be raised at least 8.5 cents per $100 of valuation — based on last year’s valuations — just for additional road repairs. That doesn’t take into account any increases that might be necessary for the rest of the portion of the budget and will not solve all the county’s road problems.

After more than an hour of discussion on Tuesday, commissioners took several courses of action but will revisit the issue.

The budget committee will come up with projects that attempt to get maximum work completion for the county based on levy allocations of the following amounts: 37 cents, 40 cents and 42 cents.

Last year, the county’s levy was 32.6 cents. The highest Madison County’s levy has been is 42 cents, which it was in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

The county is just one of several entities that collect property taxes, so even if the county’s levy increase is significant, other entities also have an impact on the amount of property taxes each person pays. The county’s levy limit is 47 cents per $100 of valuation.

There are several unknowns. That includes how much FEMA reimbursement the county will get.

Also, the county doesn’t know high property valuations will be, but commissioners suspect there will not be much of an increase after more lean agricultural years. The property valuations will be certified Aug. 20, which is when the county is scheduled to have its next meeting.

In addition, it isn’t known how many contractors might be available to complete the road work. Several projects from various entities have been delayed because no contractors are available.

The budget has been put together with a 2 percent increase projected for salaries.

Some of the most pressing projects include:

— Benjamin Avenue widening west of Highway 35 into Norfolk. It is proposed to be widened from two lanes to three lanes. There are other features as well, with the project scheduled to have bids opened Aug. 29. The project already has been delayed two years. Estimated cost is $1.62 million.

— Old Hadar Road, which includes 2 miles of complete reconstruction. Estimated cost is $2.4 million. Pierce County is responsible for the third mile, or northernmost mile.

— Battle Creek North project, which would be about one-fourth of a mile. Estimated cost is $480,000.

— Producers Road concrete reconstruction, also near Battle Creek. It covers about 1.5 miles and is estimated to cost $1.5 million.

— Resurfacing 20 miles of asphalt around the county. In the past, the county would resurface 6 to 7 miles a year but was finding out that it was getting too far behind to keep up. The estimated cost for 20 miles is $6.7 million.

The budget committee includes commissioner Troy Uhlir, road superintendent Dick Johnson, county clerk Anne Pruss and former clerk Nancy Scheer.

Commissioners have estimated the cost to get these essential projects completed along with some other minor road and bridge projects to be about $12.2 million.

Bonding about $6 million to go toward road work and paying it back over 10 years would likely raise the levy about 1.7 cents for 10 years.

“We brought the worst case and best case of fixing as much as we could today,” Uhlir said. “We know we have to come back. We’ll look at some numbers and see what we have.”

The county board also approved the levy allocation requests of 3.5 cents per $100 of valuation from the rural fire protection districts. That is the same as last year.

Commissioners also approved modest increases of property taxes of about 2.5 percent for the Madison Agricultural Society and 3.23 percent for the Norfolk Sanitary District.

After valuations are certified and the budget reviewed on Tuesday, Aug. 20, the county board has scheduled another budget review for Friday, Aug. 23, at 3 p.m.

The public hearing on the fiscal year 2019-20 budget is planned for Wednesday, Sept. 4.

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