Many people have a savings account.
Many people have a savings account. Some banks require it as a backup to checking accounts. If that checking account becomes overdrawn, banks simply take the excess from the savings account.
Some like the idea of a savings account. After all, the normal, day-to-day operations of the household can be handled through a checking account. Electric bills, mortgages and car insurance are handled easily, but when that car breaks down and needs a $500 repair, or the heat in the house breaks and requires expensive maintenance, a savings account is key to covering those unexpected costs.
Cities have savings accounts as well, and the one Havelock has came in handy this week. City commissioners voted to use about $330,000 from that savings account to pay for road maintenance and repairs.
It’s a move that make sense.
So, this is how we got here. In 2015, community forum surveys returned to the city indicated that 300 residents cited poor road conditions as an issue in Havelock. City staff, listening to the people, decided to seek a solution.
But a solution wasn’t easy to find. The General Assembly passed legislation on the state level that essentially reduced the state gasoline tax, money that is returned to cities to help pay for street repairs. That reduction cost the city about $131,000.
In May as part of the budget process, city staff and commissioners came up with an idea of a $15 fee per vehicle registered in the city — the amount of which would total about $139,000 that would go toward street repairs.
Residents balked at the idea and turned out in large numbers to protest the fee at a board meeting.
Listening to the wishes of the people, commissioners decided against the vehicle fee and instead decided on a 2-cent property tax increase to pay for street repairs.
However, in the end, commissioners in June decided against that move as well, saying they wanted to see city staff develop a plan for the street repairs before they took action. Mark Sayger, the city’s public works director, presented that plan during Monday’s meeting.
In the meantime, officials learned expenses were less than budgeted in the fiscal year, resulting in about $1.5 million going into the city’s reserves — or its savings account.
So during a meeting Monday, commissioners voted to use some of that extra savings money and put it toward street repairs.
Good for them.
We know that street repairs are a yearly expense, and the city had about $170,000 on hand from the state gasoline tax to address it.
However, that state gasoline tax money has been steadily decreasing, while the cost of street repairs continues to increase. Simply put, the amount of money the city was receiving from the state for such repairs wasn’t enough to cover all the necessary maintenance. Street repairs began to fall behind schedule. After all, Sayger said Monday that full resurfacing of just the top 10 worst roads in the city would cost $755,000.
That’s a lot of money, but so is $1.5 million.
We certainly understand the need for a savings account, and the need to make sure that savings account has enough funds to handle emergency expenses. Some would argue street repairs are not emergency expenses.
However, the city needs to catch up on street maintenance, and financially — at least according to Sayger — paying now will save money later.
“If you spend a dollar in the first 15 to 20 years of pavement, you save $15 on the other side when it starts to deteriorate,” Sayger told board members during his presentation. “Preventative maintenance is really the biggest bang for your buck.”
Using that savings account will mean the city won’t have to increase property taxes to fix roads. Using that savings account will mean the city won’t have to charge $15 per vehicle to fix roads.
Sure, a long-term solution for annual road repairs is needed. After all, no one is going to stop driving on them, so maintenance will be required.
But in the short term, this is a good solution. Roads get fixed and city residents won’t have to pay anything extra for it.
Yep, a savings account sure can come in handy.