Roads likely beneficiary of state tax funds

Brown County government entities have been given an extra $1 million and change to split, and more than $900,000 of it is likely going toward roads.

The money came from a one-time distribution of income tax funds through Senate Bill 67.

On May 1, the state sent $1,076,359.18 to Brown County Treasurer Mary Smith with instructions to distribute it in the same manner as regular income tax disbursements.

Of that total, $823,103.37 went to the county.

The town of Nashville received $78,384.51.

For towns, cities and counties, 75 percent of the money has to either be used for infrastructure or put into a rainy-day fund, according to the new law.

The remaining 25 percent can be used in any manner the town or county wants.

However, both the town and county are considering using 100 percent of it for road maintenance.

One option created by House Bill 1001 is for cities, towns and counties to use the money as matching funds for a new Indiana Department of Transportation grant program.

Nashville Town Manager/Economic Development Director Scott Rudd said he would advise the town council to use the $78,384.51 toward a grant for street repair.

First, they will need to address roads that are on the verge of severe disrepair, he said.

Until he has completed a survey of the town’s roads, town utility coordinator Sean Cassiday will not know which roads need work the most.

Cassiday is developing an asset management plan for the town’s nearly 11 miles of streets. The plan is required to apply for the INDOT grant, and it will help him determine which roads need the most attention.

For the first time in two years, the town has a small amount of money that could be used for minor repairs, Cassiday said. Ideally, any INDOT grant money could then be used for larger repairs, like complete repaving.

County commissioner Diana Biddle said INDOT has yet to issue guidance on how the grant program will be administered or what the requirements will be for projects to be considered.

While she anticipates the county will also want to use most or all of the money for road work, she said she will have a better idea after a joint meeting Monday, May 16 between the county’s two top governing bodies.

She said it’s possible INDOT will set the standards fairly high, only approving very large or expensive projects.

Also, entering a grant cycle could significantly extend the timeline for a project, she said.

As a result, she favors seeking larger projects with any grant proposals, Biddle said. Ideally, the county could seek grants for projects that would be too expensive to do without outside help, such as replacing bridges that are either reaching the end of their lifespan or were not intended to be permanent.

The remaining $174,871.30 of the state disbursement was divided among the four townships, the Hamblen Fire Protection District, Brown County Schools and the Brown County Public Library.

Other entities

The SBOA has directed all government entities that are not towns, cities or counties to deposit their share of the money into the unit’s rainy-day fund.

While any unit that has a rainy-day fund is required when establishing it to specify the purpose of the fund, there are no restrictions in state law on how that money can be used.

The library received the most out of those entities: $64,438.90.

Director Stori Snyder said her board is not aware of the disbursement yet, and she will have to meet with them before she can speak to any possible uses for it.

Washington Township Trustee Brandon Magner and Hamblen Township Trustee Phil Stephens said they have no immediate ideas on how to use the money. Those townships received $10,739.82 and $18,210.64, respectively.

Trustee Vicki Payne said she would like to determine if some of the $9,530.88 Van Buren Township will get could be used for ongoing cemetery restoration. In addition to repairing and replacing grave markers, Payne said she has had four concrete markers placed so far with the names and established date of cemeteries in her township.

Jackson Township Trustee Sandy Higgins shared similar thoughts.

Though Higgins has volunteers willing to do cemetery restoration work, the township’s small budget leaves little room for buying supplies to do it, she said.

Higgins said she also tries to make contributions to the Access Brown County public transportation service, Mother’s Cupboard, Silver Linings women’s shelter and the Brown County Backpack Program to feed children on the weekends — all services to which she directs township residents seeking aid.

The $18,317.37 Jackson is getting could make a big difference, she Higgins said.

Brown County Schools has made no decisions on how to use the $40,228.04 which was deposited to its rainy day fund, said district Treasurer Susie Owens.

The Hamblen Fire Protection District received $13,405.65. Secretary-treasurer Roy Shea said there are no immediate plans for it.

What they're getting

Brown County $823,103.37

Town of Nashville $78,384.51

Brown County Public Library $64,438.90

Brown County Schools $40,228.04

Jackson Township $18,317.37

Hamblen Township $18,210.64

Hamblen Township Fire Protection District $13,405.65

Washington Township $10,739.82

Van Buren Township $9,530.88

Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.