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The Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) Board of Road Commissioners today adopted a $161 million budget for the agency for fiscal year (FY) 2021.
“Despite this being an extraordinary year, with state revenues down due to COVID-19, we were able to adopt a budget involves relatively little reductions in road work,” explained RCOC Board Chairman Greg Jamian. “And, if we receive more revenue than anticipated, we are easily able to increase the amount of road work we will do next year.”
The $161 million budget represents a slight decrease of about $1 million compared to the $162 million 2020 budget adopted in September of last year. The 2021 proposed budget decreased primarily due to an anticipated decrease in state road funding.
RCOC anticipates receiving approximately $102.4 million in state road funding in fiscal year 2021, compared to just over $111 million received in the current year. State road funding is derived primarily from state-collected fuel taxes, vehicle-registration fees and state General Fund dollars.
The remaining revenue making up the budget comes from local community contributions ($18 million) federal funds ($20.8 million), the contract with the Michigan Department of Transportation to maintain state highways in the county ($10.5 million), state Transportation Economic Development Fund (TEDF) grants ($3.6 million) and federal funds for traffic signals ($3 million).
The state dollars continue to represent RCOC’s largest source of funding and its main funding source for operations. The anticipated drop in state funding is the result of the impact of coronavirus on state revenues, particularly vehicle-registration fees and fuel taxes, which are the two largest sources of state road funding.
The TEDF and federal funds are awarded on a project-by-project basis, and the amount RCOC receives from each source fluctuates from year to year.
The 2021 budget includes nearly $35.6 million in annual contributions toward road-improvement projects planned to be under construction in 2021 (this is not the total cost for these projects -- some costs were included in the current year’s budget or will be included in the 2022 budget where projects are carried over from last year or expected to be carried over into 2022); $32.4 million for road maintenance efforts such as pothole patching, gravel road grading and salting and plowing in the winter; and $15.4 million for maintaining traffic signs, signals, pavement markings and guardrails among other activities.
The remainder of the budget is dedicated to operating expenses including customer services, vehicle maintenance, staff wages, buildings and grounds and administration.
RCOC’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. The budget was presented for public input at a public hearing on Aug. 20.
“We continue to feel the impact of the coronavirus, and the resulting economic downturn, on our budget,” Jamian noted. “We have already reduced this budget by $11 million in response to anticipated reductions in revenue, and it’s possible we may have to make additional cuts during 2021.”
RCOC Vice Chairman Ron Fowkes concurred. “We have always operated in a fiscally conservative manor,” he explained. “The economic downturn resulting from the coronavirus caught everyone by surprise. There is nothing we could have done differently to better prepare for this,” he added. “I am very thankful that we were in good financial shape when the pandemic arrived.”
Board Member Andrea LaLonde added the Board remains concerned about road funding in the coming year. “The state of the economy will have a lot to do with our revenues for the coming year, and even beyond,” she noted. “We appreciate that the pandemic is affecting all aspects of the economy, and we are committed to being extremely careful with the revenues we receive.”
Among the road projects planned for 2021 and included in the budget are:
Projects are typically selected based on a detailed, computerized road-assessment program combined with engineers’ analysis and a review of safety data. The decisions are often made years before construction begins because of funding requirements.
“RCOC continues to improve the safety and condition of our roads throughout Oakland County,” Managing Director Dennis Kolar said. “We know that many roads still need improvement and appreciate the patience of our citizens and businesses as we continue to work through a very long needs list.”
The budget is posted on the RCOC Website, www.rcocweb.org (click on the “Financials” button on the home page, then select “Budget Summary” and click on “2020-21 Budget”).
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Editor’s Note: The list of anticipated projects to be constructed in 2021 and a summary of proposed revenues and expenses are attached.