The Colusa County Grand Jury released its findings last week of an investigation into the local allocation and distribution of gasoline tax funding, which was initiated by a complaint from a citizen of Williams in 2018.
While the grand jury found that maintenance and repair of local roads is consistently underfunded in all of Colusa County, including the cities of Colusa and Williams, the 17-member panel concluded that gas tax dollars are being distributed to each of the jurisdictions properly. Other road funding comes from sales and property taxes collected within the county, as well as vehicle registration fees.
“The grand jury finds that the allocation of tax monies is correct based on the pertinent (state) laws and statutory formulas, which are calculated using roadway miles, population numbers, and registered vehicles,” the report states.
California is set to charge the highest taxes and fees on gas in the U.S. when a tax increase of 5.6 cents kicks in on Monday, July 1. It is unknown, however, if the additional revenue local agencies will receive from the tax increase for road maintenance will appease some Williams officials, including former Mayor Chuck Bergson, who have fought extensively with county officials over gas tax allocations.
Colusa County Supervisor Kent Boes, a resident of Williams, said he hopes the grand jury report will help to settle the issue once and for all that California law, not Colusa County or the Colusa County Transportation Commission, determines how tax collected for road maintenance is allocated back to the county and cities.
According the Colusa County Grand Jury, road repair funding in California is a complicated process, and that tax revenue comes from multiple sources, including the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (SB 1), which increased gas taxes 12 cents (20 cents on diesel) in 2017 for road repair, and the Highway Users Tax Account (35.3 cents tax per gallon), which also plays a part in the funding.
In their report, the grand jury noted that Colusa County is responsible for the maintenance of 753 miles of roadway; Williams is responsible for 27 miles of roadway plus 11 miles of truck routes; and Colusa is responsible for 42 miles of roadway, which, along with population, is the primary component of the statutory formula for the allocation of taxes, and not who has the most gas stations in the county or who generates the most taxes.
The county’s total road fund budget for 2018-19 was $6.9 million, which included about $1.7 million from SB 1 and $3.6 million from all gas tax sources. Colusa received about $99,000 through SB 1 with a total of $227,108 from all gas tax sources. Williams received about $86,443 from SB 1, with a total of about $199,000
“SB 1 has already begun to fund both cities and county though the allocations have been less than expected and still fall short of the funding level required to fully fund county and city road maintenance needs,” the grand jury noted.
The report stated that road conditions in the county and incorporated cities have not improved since 2011, and that the roads remain “at-risk” based on their Pavement Condition Index score of 60.
The grand jury recommended that the Colusa County and the two incorporated cities continue to secure grant funding, and that the cities work to encourage growth in order to generate more tax dollars for infrastructure maintenance and repairs.
The grand jury also recommended the city of Williams add budget and financial statement links to their website to enhance access and transparency.
Williams Councilman John Troughton said he wished the grand jury would have taken their report one step further to investigate just how much each jurisdiction in Colusa County generates in gas taxes.
Williams officials believe the state should revise the statutory funding formula to include some financial credit to cities whose economic development efforts have resulted in high generation of gasoline and diesel taxes. ■