Column: Road maintenance may need new tax ... or something!

Firesky Lane, south of west Road 1 North, is full of patched potholes - in this 2010 photo.

Review, file photo

Firesky Lane, south of west Road 1 North, is full of patched potholes - in this 2010 photo.

When the discussions in Phoenix turn to roads, maintenance of them, and whether state lawmakers should or should not use Highway User Revenue Funds (HURF) for other needs, Chino Valley Mayor Darryl Croft has an opinion: “Something needs to be done.”

The Town of Chino Valley is like all other rural communities in Arizona. “We’re all suffering the same way,” he said. “A lot of the larger cities have a sales tax for roads, but many rural (areas) do not.”

Residents here pay “gasoline taxes and vehicle license taxes, but for the past couple of years the state has been sweeping that, so we’re short that way.

“Generally, there’s not enough income coming in for roads,” he said.

The state has been taking money from HURF and using it for Highway Patrol, and, he said, as a result in the next couple of years the Town Council sees that it may have to ask for a tax for roads. That was a matter of discussion at the council retreat a few weeks ago.

“We can fix them, we know how to do that,” he said of the roads, “it’s that we’re short on the funds for them.”

The town does not have a tax on property either; if town officials were to annex a nearby community, Chino Valley would not benefit — “that doesn’t help either. … We still would have to provide services, but get no property tax.”

Is it an imminent threat? “No, not this year,” Croft said. In fact, at the earliest the town may need a tax for roads in 2019, “which is next year.”

Croft said the state is responsible for Highway 89.

The town, however, is 64 square miles in size, larger than other local cities and towns, he added, and Chino Valley has 150 miles of roads — some paved, some unpaved.

“We have an obligation to fix the roads, and we will,” he said.

The challenge is the town is operating on a shoestring and a prayer right now, when it comes to roads. He said this year the town should be able to do maintenance on three or four miles of roads, “maybe five miles.”

Croft lamented, however, that every year the cost of materials and labor goes up.

Seems like a never-ending cycle.

When asked about the idea of raising the gasoline tax, which everyone pays, he said: “Someone has to pay for the roads.” And, while the tax on gasoline has not been raised since 1991, and it is not bringing in enough money for even the state roads, Croft is not necessarily looking at the gas tax, “but, really, something needs to be done.”

Even the state, he said, is not building more roads. It is shifting more toward maintenance as well.

The answer is a tough one that’s for sure.

In the Legislature, efforts to raise money for roads has changed to an added fee on vehicle registration. That bill is nearing approval this week.

So, whether it is Road 2 South (paved and unpaved), Road 1 West, Reed Road, or points north and east that you drive, the town is looking ahead.

Rough roads ahead? Not if Croft and the council members have anything to say about it.

Community Editor Tim Wiederaenders is the senior editor for the Chino Valley Review and Prescott Newspapers, Inc. Follow him on Twitter @TWieds_editor. Reach him at 928-445-3333, ext. 2032, or twieds@prescottaz.com.