Adequate funding is the key to a successful capital improvements plan. The BCEO obtains revenue from three different levels—Federal, State, and Local. There are two primary sources of local money—gasoline taxes and license plate fees. This money is designated specifically for the County Engineer’s Office for road and bridge projects and is completely separate from the County’s general fund, from which the Engineer’s Office receives no money. It is also important to note that the Engineer’s Office does not receive money from property taxes collected.
Annual income generated by local funding sources averages just under $12 million. This revenue is important as local match money for State and Federally funded projects.
The Butler County Engineer’s Office maximizes the use of local funds by matching them with State and Federal funds. On the average, one local dollar can leverage three to four dollars from sources outside Butler County.
The BCEO works to leverage outside funding whenever possible for eligible projects. As an example, there are several categories of Federal aid, most of which are designated for certain types of projects on specific roads and bridges. In order to utilize these funds very strict qualifications must be met, including the completion of environmental studies and providing the local funding match. An average leveraged ratio of 80 percent federal to 20 percent local is maintained by federal aid experts at the BCEO.
The Community Development Block Grant Program is designed to provide money for small city, village, and township infrastructure programs that normally would not qualify for other outside funding sources. This program is also designed to assist with improvements to low income areas.
The primary source of State funding utilized by the BCEO are Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) funds, renewed by Ohio voters as State Issue 1 in November 2005.
OPWC money is designated for the repair and replacement of existing infrastructure. The Ohio Public Works Commission administers three funding categories – Local Transportation Improvement Program (LTIP), State Capital Improvement Program (SCIP), and Small Government Capital Improvement Program. Local match money is technically not required but does enhance the chances for receiving OPWC grants by enhancing project viability ratings. The OPWC has divided the State into 19 separate funding districts, and communities and qualifying agencies within each district must vie for their share of the funding which is allotted to their district. Butler County lies within District 10, which also includes the Counties of Warren, Clermont, and Clinton and their communities. The Miami University Center for Public Management and Regional Affairs serves as the manager and liaison for all OPWC funding in District 10.
The two primary sources of local funding are gasoline taxes and license plate fees. A much needed two cent increase was added to the State gasoline tax in 2003. This was the first such increase in ten years. A second two cent increase was added in 2004. However, Butler County’s status as one of the State’s largest counties makes it a donor county. When revenues are distributed by the State of Ohio, Butler County actually gets back less than it puts in. A portion of our gas tax money goes to smaller counties that can’t generate adequate revenues due to their limited populations. The money that is returned to Butler County is utilized as local funds.
Many road and bridge projects are funded one-hundred percent with local money and are let by contract or are performed by crews from the Engineer’s Office. Non-contract projects performed by BCEO crews are known as Force Account projects and can consist of everything from culvert and bridge replacements and deck repairs to general and seasonal maintenance. The Ohio Revised Code caps Force Account projects at $30,000 per mile for paving or maintenance and $100,000 per structure (bridge or culvert). (Materials for Force Account projects are bid through separate contracts.) If the cost estimate for a project is over these amounts, the project must by law be competitively bid and let as a contract to the lowest qualified bidder.
A relatively new concept in locally funded road construction is the Transportation Improvement District (TID), which was enacted through state legislation passed in 1993.The TID is comprised of a panel of local governments charged with funding several projects in the TID-designated area, which covers most of the southeast quadrant of the County. Innovative financing is the key to speeding up construction of much-needed projects for which traditional funding methods have been difficult since most local, state, and federal budgets are already stretched. The County Engineer serves on the TID Board of Directors.