by Mitchell Kirk
The Cass County Council approved an appropriation of $160,000 to help ease budget cuts to the county’s highway department brought on by a state mandate.
In February, the council reluctantly voted to make significant budget cuts in accordance with a mandate issued by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance. The highway department took the hardest hit after its local roads and streets fund was reduced from the originally budgeted amount of roughly $500,000 down to about $150,000, nearly a $350,000 hit. The council also voted to reduce its general fund by about $300,000, per the DLGF mandate.
Cass County Highway Superintendent Jeff Smith said in February he would likely have to seek additional appropriation to keep the road program running in the future and now it would appear that time has come. He formally made the request for an appropriation of $160,000, at a council meeting Friday.
“When I put this request together, I was attempting to recoup some of that cut because we have a cash balance there that would cover it,” Smith said, adding he is trying to funnel as many available dollars as he can toward maintenance materials for road repair throughout the summer like chipseal, pug mix and hot mix asphalt.
The council voted unanimously to make the appropriation from the county’s motor vehicle highway fund.
Councilman James David brought up one concern before the vote.
“You don’t have any outside pressures?” he asked Smith. “That’s what I want to make sure you don’t have.”
Smith confirmed there were none other than occasional calls from county residents requesting the conversion of gravel roads into hard-surfaced ones. Smith said as there are currently about 100 miles of gravel roads in the county’s total 900 miles, more of his efforts are focused on maintaining the already hard-surface roads rather than giving gravel roads a flat top.
The Cass County Highway Department is set to get another boost along with highway departments across the state this August, when $215 million worth of earmarks in the recently approved state budget pertaining to new road funding annually for the next two fiscal years will take effect. It has been projected that $100 million of this amount will go toward counties, cities and towns.
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.