(Juneau) Officials in Dodge County are hoping to fix 50-miles of roadway over the next two years. The Dodge County Board voted last week to borrow $9-million-dollars for roads as part of the 2021 budget. The plan is to use that money to upgrade 25 miles of roadway next year, then borrow the same amount for 2022. A recent Dodge County Highway Department survey saw around 40-percent of the population in favor of spending the $18-million-dollars for roads, the highest percentage among four options given. During last week’s county board meeting, a budget amendment was floated by Supervisor Cathy Houchin who opposes higher taxes to address road maintenance issues. Houchin says it is still uncertain if the county will spend the full $18-million-dollars over two years, with 2022 borrowing contingent on loan rates at the time. She added that when the county starts using its debt tax, it becomes a (quote) “slippery slope.”
Suggestions included the use of a combination of sales tax dollars, the Highway Department budget and shared revenue from the gas tax to cover the costs instead. Houchin says while she is in favor of repairing the roadways in Dodge County, the timing is wrong. She says she cannot justify taxing the constituents of Dodge County more money, especially those who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19.
Supervisor David Frohling argued against the amendment. He says today’s interest rates for borrowing are lower than the rate of inflation, meaning tax payers will be saving money over the long term. Frohling says if the county waits a few years to fix the roads those rates may change and end up costing more.
The amendment was ultimately voted down on a 23-to-8 vote. If the borrowing was removed, the tax rate would have decreased roughly 13-cents. As approved, the mill rate of $5.12 per thousand-dollars of assessed value is down two-cents from the number homeowners saw last December.